Styrofoam takeout containers the topic of discussion in Buffalo

Public weighs in on potential ban on takeout styrofoam containers

Mike Baggerman
March 26, 2019 - 7:32 pm

Styrofoam container. March 26, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – A possible Styrofoam ban in the City of Buffalo took its next step on Tuesday during a committee meeting with the Buffalo Common Council, where members of the public voiced their opposition for and against the ban.

Buffalo Common Councilman Darius Pridgen didn’t directly say that this would be an outright ban on all Styrofoam containers, but rather the “lessening of the footprint of Styrofoam by starting with takeout containers.”

“There needs to be more research,” Pridgen told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting. “I really want to hear from the scientific community…At the end of the day, it is about the science.”

Pridgen’s resolution in the Buffalo Common council cites a Buffalo News article which references New York City’s plastic foam packaging ban. New York City banned “expanded polystyrene”, which can’t be recycled. An estimated 25 billion EPS coffee cups were thrown out last year in the United States. Those cups, plus the takeout containers are made from fossil fuels take up to 500 years to break down.

John Szalasny from the Sierra Club Niagara Group was one of the speakers and references New York City’s ban on Styrofoam cups, plates, trays, and clamshell containers. The ban was implemented because the products weren’t recyclable in an “economically feasible” and “environmentally effective” way.

There are exemptions to it, though, in New York City, including non-profits and small businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue. Those businesses can apply for hardship exemptions.

“Cities like Los Angeles and New York City have both determined that not only had the product not been economically or ecologically recycled in a proper manner, Los Angeles actually did it for a number of years and found they had absolutely no markets for it,” Szalasny told reporters after the meeting. “The person that was in the room found there were people looking buy their stuff. Los Angeles found that they couldn’t give it away if they wanted to.”

He’d like to see Buffalo implement a full ban. Pridgen said they’re only considering Styrofoam ban on food service items throughout the entire City of Buffalo.

“I am concerned, of course, about business and how it effects them ,” Pridgen said. “But I’m more concerned about our environment. I think that when we work together that we do come up with some alternatives that may really lessen the footprint of Styrofoam.”

Pridgen said he’d like to see local scientists weigh in on the matter but he will listen to scientists from outside Buffalo and Western New York.

The council president said he will gather more information over the next 30 days and decide then whether or not to bring forward legislation on Styrofoam.

“Some people have even suggested giving customers the option so that if you’re going to have the Styrofoam that you have an alternative so that if a customer does not want the Styrofoam they don’t have to have it,” he said.

Not everyone at the meeting was for the ban. Syracuse-based DART Container Corporation’s Recycling Manager Christine Cassidy said her company manufactures food service items like paper, plastic, and Styrofoam containers.

“Some of the misconceptions…is that foam comprises 30 percent by volume and by weight of the landfill,” she said. “That is completely incorrect. New York City did in 2017 a waste categorization study. This was before they proposed a ban on foam. New York City, which is the largest city in the US, estimated that foam is .7 percent of their waste. That’s less than one percent in New York City.”

She also said the Styrofoam can be recycled at plants such as DCC. Cassidy urged lawmakers to do their research before proposing legislation.

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