Photo via Wikimedia Commons
New York City's enforcement of its ban on foam began this week.
By Carlotta Mohamed

A new law to ban the use of Styrofoam in New York City restaurants will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Under Local Law 142, “food service establishments, stores, mobile food commissaries and manufacturers may not possess, sell, or offer for use single-service Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam food service articles or loose fill packaging.”

The law will apply to businesses within New York City’s five boroughs using foam takeout containers, cups, packing peanuts, plates, bowls, and trays.

Exceptions include EPS containers used for prepackaged food that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the business, and EPS containers used to store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood, or poultry sold from a butcher case or similar retail appliance. Foam blocks used as protective packaging in shipping are not covered under this law.

The law was established because Styrofoam poses an environmental threat, since it cannot be recycled or broken down in landfills, according to the New York City Department of Sanitation.

During organic waste collection, Styrofoam can break down into smaller pieces that contaminate organic waste, making it unusable for composting or reuse.

There will be a six-month grace period beginning Jan. 1, 2019, for businesses to find alternative forms of packaging before fines will be imposed.

Under Local Law 142, for the first violation, the fine will be $250; for the second violation within 12 months, the fine will be $500; and, for the third and each subsequent violation within twelve months, the fine will be $1,000.

“Many food establishments in Flushing rely heavily on customers who carry out their food. It is very important for these businesses to be informed of this law so they can quickly work to find alternative ways to package their food and continue on with their business,” said Sunny Sun, vice president of the New York Chinese Business Association.

Alternative packaging options include aluminum, rigid plastics, uncoated paper, glass, and compostable items.

Small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income for the most recent tax year and nonprofits may apply for hardship exemptions from the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products not composed of EPS would create a financial hardship. SBS is currently accepting applications for polystyrene foam hardship waivers.

To access the application, visit www.nyc.gov/foamwaiver.

“We urge local businesses to educate themselves about this new law to avoid the thousands of dollars in fines that may accrue when the NYC Department of Sanitation begins to issue violation notices,” said Taehoon Kim, president of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “For the many small businesses that will experience hardship because of this new law, we encourage you to apply for a one-year waiver from the NYC Department of Small Business Services.”

To learn more, visit www.nyc.gov/foamban.

Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmohamed@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4526.

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