Businesses Speak Up for Polystyrene

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Mayor Bloomberg has proposed banning plastic foam cups and food packaging, saying they are bad for the environment. But some businesses are reluctant to part with polystyrene. Here are three reasons why.

It’s cheaper for businesses

The American Chemistry Council, An industry group, estimates the price is three to five times less than paper, metal, or hard plastic.

“We have to change to the plastic cup, right? And you know the price will be higher. So many restaurants, they'll be making, like, less money,” said Jeff Won, who works in the kitchen at a Tex-Mex takeout restaurant in the West Village.

It’s cheaper for consumers

Alex Park, who works at a hot and cold bar in Soho, noticed that most customers choose polystyrene clamshells over hard plastic packaging.

“Some people like it cause it weighs less. And when you weigh the food, like, it all adds up,” Park said.

There are some things polystyrene just does better

Like keeping coffee warm.

“If you buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you may be getting a double cup or you might be getting a sleeve or a jacket that might go onto the cup. You don't have those concerns with a foam cup because of the fine insulation qualities,” said Frank Liesman, vice president for government affairs for Dart Container Corporation, one of the nation's biggest makers of foam cups. 

Liesman says if he could get Michael Bloomberg's ear, he'd like to try to convince him to give polystyrene a chance.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry group, says New York City should start recycling polystyrene instead of banning it.

Polystyrene is sometimes incorrectly referred to as styrofoam. It makes up about half of one percent of all of New York City's trash.

Environmentalists praised the mayor's proposal, saying it will reduce litter.