Sierra Club was pleased to join 55 organizations in signing the below letter, which was delivered to the office of NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito this week. In the letter, the groups explain their opposition to Int. 1480, which would advance an industry-inspired “recycling” bill for polystyrene foam, and urge support for Int. 1596, a bill that would ban single-use polystyrene foam food and beverage containers.
May 30, 2017
Dear Speaker Mark-Viverito:
The undersigned community and environmental organizations, environmental justice groups, and solid waste experts have joined together to strongly oppose Intro 1480, an industry-inspired bill that would seek to “recycle” single-use polystyrene foam food and beverage containers in New York City. We urge you to reject this legislation and instead move to ban these litter- and pollution-generating containers by a date certain.
Expanded polystyrene (“EPS”) foam containers, due to their light weight and brittle composition, create a significant litter clean-up problem for the Sanitation Department and city property owners, burden city recycling operations and pollute our waterways and our communities. Intro 1480 runs counter to recent New York City efforts to truly rid our communities of unnecessary waste.
On May 12, 2017, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia issued a detailed and unequivocal study, which concluded that recycling polystyrene foam in New York City cannot be accomplished in an economically feasible and environmentally effective manner. That report, which is in accord with views of solid waste officials around the nation, concluded: “For 30 years, attempts to recycle Food-Service Foam – both subsidized and non-subsidized attempts – have failed at each step in the recycling process.” The agency’s full analysis is available here: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/docs/2017-05-12FoamDetermination_FINAL.pdf.
Indeed, no big city in America has successfully implemented a recycling program for dirty polystyrene foam food and beverage containers.
In contrast with such failed efforts, more than 100 communities around the nation have banned the use of food and beverage containers made of polystyrene foam. They include Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, San Jose, Miami Beach and Washington D.C, as well as New York’s Albany and Ulster Counties.
The roughly 35,000 tons of garbage New York City produces every day disproportionately impact a few low-income and communities of color where truck-dependent transfer stations are clustered, and along the truck routes used to haul garbage. These same communities deal with many sources of pollution and their negative health consequences. To achieve waste equity and environmental justice, NYC needs strong policies that minimize the impact of truck traffic and trash in these neighborhoods – including restricting harmful materials, like polystyrene foam, that inevitably end up polluting our communities on their way to landfills or incinerators.
Our organizations, with members in all neighborhoods throughout New York City, are ready to stand up to the plastics foam lobby and to work with the City Council to advance sensible legislation, such as Intro 1596, which would ban single-use polystyrene foam food and beverage containers, in the weeks and months ahead.
We respectfully request that you neither co-sponsor nor advance the plastic industry’s self-serving polystyrene foam “recycling” bill, and instead work to enact legislation that would finally ban these problematic polystyrene foam food and beverage containers once and for all. Taking such actions would help reduce litter and pollution in neighborhoods across the city, led to a more sustainable and equitable waste policy in New York City and help shape your environmental legacy as Council Speaker.
See more on Int. 1596 here: http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3042790&GUID=E29EC95F-E99F-43F6-B677-44B95197510B&Options=ID%7CText%7C&Search=Int+1596-2017