New York City Reinstates Styrofoam Ban

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A pile of trash outside the Tokyo fish market.

For the second time in less than three years, New York City is instituting a ban on single-use Styrofoam containers. 

The first ban on polystyrene took effect in July, 2015, but was challenged by a coalition recycling firms and plastics manufacturers. They sued the city arguing that the material is recyclable.

New York Supreme Court judge Margaret Chan agreed, overturning the ban before the Sanitation Department even had a chance to start handing out fines. She wrote that the industry had offered up a feasible recycling plan for the containers, and sent the city back to the drawing board.

The city's new report issued late Friday again found that Styrofoam is impossible to be recycled economically.

The ban's reinstatement came on the same day as a New York City Council committee held a hearing on a bill that would make Styrofoam take-out containers part of the city's curbside recycling program. Dozens of New Yorkers filled the committee room to speak for or against.

The bill was backed by the Restaurant Action Alliance and the Dart Container Corporation, one of the largest manufacturers of polystyrene containers. Plastics manufacturers would pay the infrastructure costs to implement the recycling program. 

Cabrera and other New York City politicians have received campaign contributions from Dart in the past. According to New York City Campaign Finance Board data, more than a dozen other New York City politicians received $39,095 in campaign contributions from Ariane Dart, the wife of Dart's CEO, in 2013, the same year the polystyrene ban was first debated in Council.

The company vowed to again fight the ban in the courts.

“Today’s declaration by [the New York City Sanitation Department] isn’t just inconsistent with Judge Chan’s ruling," said Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs for Dart Container Corporation. "It’s wrong for struggling small businesses, restaurants and taxpayers — and it will actually make it harder for the city to meet Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC goal of Zero Waste by 2030."

The ban takes effect November 13, with a sixth month warning period before fines would be issued. It applies to any food service establishment or mobile food truck or store that sells, or offers, polystyrene packaging.