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Definition and development of functional barriers for the use of recycled materials in multilayer food packaging

TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

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NYC facing pushback in its attempt to ban food service EPS

New York City is finding itself in a civil war over expanded polystyrene food service packaging.

A proposed law to recognize EPS as recyclable has been introduced before City Council just as Mayor Bill de Blasio again moves against the plastic packaging.

The mayor and city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia have been on what is now a years-long push to outlaw EPS from food service use in the city. Simply put, attempting to recycle foodservice EPS is folly, they believe.

The bill, called Intro 1480-2017, is pushing back against that view, and 22 of the city's 51 City Council members have signed on as sponsors. The primary sponsor is Fernando Cabrera, a pastor who represents a district in the Bronx.

The bill flies in the face of a recent report by the Department of Sanitation. "For 30 years, attempts to recycle food-service foam — both subsidized and non-subsidized attempts — have failed at each step of the recycling process. The municipalities and programs that DSNY researched tell a very clear story: food-service foam is not capable of being recycled in an environmentally effective or an economically feasible manner," the report states.

But Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs at Dart Container Corp., recently said the report's view that food service EPS is unrecyclable is "a baffling declaration."

Office of New York City Council Fernando Cabrera Cabrera

Dart is a major maker of EPS products, and has offered to help the city establish a recycling program, collecting the material and shipping it off to Indiana for processing at Plastic Recycling Inc. But that has been rejected by the administration.

Westerfield called the latest anti-EPS move by the administration "in direct conflict with both fact and a 2015 NY Supreme Court ruling striking down" a previous city ban on food service EPS.

Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council recently testified before the council's Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management and called efforts to push for EPS recycling "an attempted hijacking of public policy."

"Intro 1480 is an industry-backed proposal that's a wolf in sheep's clothing," he said.

Instead, he said, NRDC supports "legislation that would ban polystyrene, including food and beverage containers. That's the only sensible and proven way to get rid of the billions of foam containers that constitute a first-class environmental nuisance throughout our city," he said.

But Westerfield, during the same committee meeting, said the recycling proposal will save the city money by reducing landfill costs and generating revenue from the material.

"Our plan is forward thinking and an excellent example of how private and public sectors can partner together for the greater good. Isn't that what everybody really wants? To oppose this bill simply because a business proposed it is bad policy," Westerfield said.

A group of 55 organizations, on March 30, sent a letter to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito asking her to oppose Intro 1480, requesting she "neither co-sponsor or advance the self-serving polystyrene foam 'recycling' bill, and instead work to enact legislation that would finally ban these problematic polystyrene foam food and beverage containers once and for all."

» Publication Date: 01/06/2017

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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