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NYC mayor declares war on packaging waste

By Rod Addy , 15-Feb-2013
Last updated on 18-Feb-2013 at 10:05 GMT2013-02-18T10:05:17Z

Bloomberg said styrofoam was 'impossible to recycle'

Bloomberg said styrofoam was 'impossible to recycle'

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to clean up the streets of his city in more ways than one – proposing to slash food waste and ban Styrofoam packaging.

Delivering his State of the City address at Barclay's Centre in Brooklyn, Bloomberg said he particularly aimed to crack down on the material, technically known as extruded polystyrene.

“Something that we know is environmentally destructive, that is costing taxpayers money, and that is easily replaceable, is something we can do without.

“So with Speaker Quinn and the City Council we will work to adopt a law banning Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants.”

‘Virtually impossible to recycle’

He said Styrofoam was “virtually impossible to recycle and never biodegrades”, adding that it increased the cost of recycling by $20 a tonne, because it had to be removed from recycling plants.

Styrofoam came under fire from consumers in a recent report from market analyst Innventia.

According to its Packaging 2020 Global Outlook report, Styrofoam was particularly singled out as a packaging material of concern. A total of 42% of 500 US shoppers surveyed for the study aged 18-30 claimed they tried to refrain from buying products packaged in the substance because they believed it was bad for the environment.

That was virtually double the amount of consumers from India or Sweden, the other regions covered by the report.

'Negative attitude'

"... There seems to be a clearly negative attitude towards Styrofoam in the US and this might increase the likelihood of an acceptance of the proposed ban," said Fredrik Rosen, manager of Innventia's market and consumer insight group.

Bloomberg’s attack on the packaging, which is used extensively in foodservice channels in the US, as well as for packaging food sold on retail shelves, is another blow to global manufacturers of the material. It followed his pledge to boost consumer recycling schemes.

He proposed to put 1,000 more recycling containers on streets in all five boroughs of New York, adding: “We’ll also make it possible to recycle more plastics.”

Largest household recycling plant

Private company SIMS would open the largest household recycling plant in North America on the Sunset Park waterfront this spring, powered by solar and wind power, said Bloomberg. “When it opens this spring, it will accept all kinds of plastics – from salad containers to CD cases.”

He went on to say that New York buried 1.2m tonnes of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 a tonne. “This spring, we’ll launch a pilot programme to collect curbside organic waste from single family homes in Staten Island for composting. If it succeeds, we’ll develop a plan to take it city-wide.”

He added that he wanted food recycling rolled out to all schools in the city, having trialled the practice at select sites already.

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