Print 62 comment(s) - last by catavalon21.. on Dec 3 at 12:00 AM

  (Source: KQED)
Ban could affect a variety of businesses ranging from homeless shelters to fast food joints

Billionaire media mogul and New York City Mayor Michael Rubens Bloomberg wants to give New Yorkers a little something to remember him by when he leaves office in a month after serving three consecutive terms.
I. A Going Away Gift -- For Your Health
Mr. Bloomberg, who did not pursue reelection this year, has been known for his controversial policies, including his ban on jumbo-sized sodas.  And his parting shot is no exception.  He wants a citywide ban on polystyrene cups and plates.
Although Bloomberg declared an all out assault on Styrofoam, the colloquial term for polystyrene foam, the brand is not actually used for food product containers. Styrofoam is a trademarked name for lightweight expanded polystyrene (EPS), a benzene-rich carbon polymer.  Styrofoam is among the lightest commercial polymers, due to it being 98 percent air by volume -- a trait that makes it a great insulator as well.  The Dow Chemical Comp. (DOW) produces more than 14 million tons of the polymer per year largely for the shipping and building industries who covet its light weight, its ability to insulate, and its strength. 

Mayor Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg hasn't been shy about micromanaging New Yorkers' buying decisions.
[Image Source: Getty Images]

Polystyrene foam accounts for "only" 23,000 tons of the city's 3 million tons of waste, it does represent a significant portion of NYC's trash stream by volume.
Polystyrene products are readily recyclable, but doing so profitably requires a large plant capable of washing, grinding, and melting down waste EPS.  And many don't have access to recycling or choose not to participate.  As a result only about 12 percent of polystyrene is recycled yearly. 
Polystyrene, aka "Styrofoam" (in expanded form) [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Aside from waste, there's also a debate regarding the health effects of eating food off of and drinking from styrofoam containers.  Styrene can erode in minute quantities into food and drink.  Studies on lab rats have shown that inhaled polystyrene can cause leukemia and lymphoma, as well as other non-cancer issues including fatigue, depression, and headaches.

Styrofoam containers
Styrofoam containers are cheap and feature great material performance, but may slightly increase some health risks and hog landfill space. [Image Source: Reuters]

To be fair, the studies cited on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website are primarily on lab rats inhaling a massive amount of vaporized (burned) polystyrene foam.  The human nose smells a distinctive odor for polystyrene foam at 0.32 parts per million.  While you can often "smell" the styrofoam in food containers, the incredibly high level of styrene -- 24,000 ppm -- that lab mice were exposed to would likely produce a far more acrid smell.
Studies indicate the average person living in urban areas receives around 0.4-0.6 ppm per day.  That paper said the risk to drinking water due to styrene seeping into the water supply was much lower (maybe 0.002 ppm per day for a "polluted" supply.  Cigarette smoke also contains significant amounts of styrene, perhaps doubling the smoker's daily exposure.  Styrene's neurological effects may explain part of the cause of neurological changes in heavy teenage and adult smokers.
Given the human body's robust systems for repairing DNA and eliminating toxins, polystyrene foam and other EPS brands probably only represent a small increase in the risk of certain kinds of cancer, when used heavily over an average lifespan.
II. For the Greater Good?
Jake Goldman, a spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg, comments, "When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health hazard by the National Institute of Health."
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio appears to also support the policy -- he proposed a similar ban while serving as a public advocate in 2010.  Various cities in California and other parts of the west coast have also banned polystyrene foam.  And in NYC and other regions, some chains like McDonald's Corp. (MCD), Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin Brands Group Inc. (DNKN), and The Wendy's Comp. (WEN) have already eliminated polystyrene foam, replacing it with biodegradable alternatives.

Big chains like McDonald's have largely already absorbed the modest cost of moving away from polystyrene in health concious regions like NYC. [Image Source: Behance]

And therein lies the rub.  For big chains, the switch doesn't appear to be a big deal.  But with The American Chemistry Council estimating the cost of switching to the cheapest alternatives will be about $91.3M USD, that's a much bigger financial blow to small businesses and nonprofits like schools, synagogues, churches, and homeless shelters.
Rosemary Nunez, owner of La Nueva Estrella El Castillo restaurant in Brooklyn, comments to The New York Post, "I use foam containers because they’re great at keeping food fresh and because they’re economical.  This is just another example of the administration trampling on the interests of the people who create jobs in this city."
The move could also cost as many as 1,215 New Yorkers' jobs in the plastic industry that supply the popular polymer.
For those reasons some believe that Mayor Bloomberg's administration is failing to see the big picture, even if its latest mandate does have some scientific backing.

Sources: The New York Post, World Health Organization [PDF], EPA

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By DaveLessnau on 11/25/2013 12:36:28 PM , Rating: 5
First of all, I have to say that since New Yorkers constantly elect these kinds of people, they deserve everything they get. But, just for the sake of knowledge, I'd like to know how the Mayor gets to make these kinds of unilateral, non-governmental decrees. They have no separation of powers or checks and balances at the city level? Why don't they just change the title to "Tyrant of New York" from "Mayor of New York?"

By Omega215D on 11/25/2013 12:39:05 PM , Rating: 1
It's because the fly over idiots that come here for the city life want it that way. They wanted to live in a big city yet they want the people living here to conform to their way of thinking and try to transform NY into suburbia. Hipsters and helicopter parents all part of the supposed Liberal/ Progressive group.

John Spartan you are fined one credit...

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By maven81 on 11/25/2013 1:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
First of all, I have to say that since New Yorkers constantly elect these kinds of people, they deserve everything they get.

He essentially bought his elections. And got support though sickening publicity stunts. I remember that when I was still in Queens, one day a caravan of trucks appeared and started digging holes all along the street probably no more then 12' apart. Then new trucks arrived and started planting trees. The trucks were marked "from the office of the honorable mayor bloomberg". I can even remember these idiots watering the trees after it had already rained.
Now I actually love trees, but no one on my block had asked him to do this, and the money spent could have been put to much better use say fixing the craptastic subway stations in that neighborhood. But then that wouldn't be as flashy would it...

Needless to say I no longer live in NYC though I still work here.

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 1:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't he basically break New York law to get elected again? I'll look it up when I'm not mobile...

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By middlehead on 11/25/2013 2:10:14 PM , Rating: 3
He had the law changed while he was in office.

By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 3:53:08 PM , Rating: 4
Ah well, same difference isn't it? LOL.

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By slunkius on 11/26/2013 2:01:47 AM , Rating: 1
you know that freshly planted trees should be watered, right? or you just like to complain: trees are watered -bad, too much water; trees dry out -bad, fools don't know how to plant trees. and no, rain is not enough in such case, especially in city.

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By StevoLincolnite on 11/27/2013 1:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
Not all tree species do.

For instance, here in Australia I planted a gum tree in sand, during the middle of summer and we had no rain for months, never watered it and it still went ballistic.

By lagomorpha on 11/27/2013 9:50:34 AM , Rating: 2
For instance, here in Australia I planted a gum tree in sand, during the middle of summer and we had no rain for months, never watered it and it still went ballistic.

It went ballistic? What is it with Australia, not only do all the animals want to kill you but the trees do as well?

By flatrock on 11/26/2013 10:36:54 AM , Rating: 2
He got reelected twice. He may have spent enough money to provide a lot of propaganda, but New Yorkers knew him well enough to make an informed decision and chose to vote for him. Not all New Yorkers voted for him or supported him, but he was fairly reelected.

The majority got the form of government they wanted.

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By FaaR on 11/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By ebakke on 11/25/2013 6:32:29 PM , Rating: 3
Seriously, what is it that you're upset about, really?
Force. This is apparently surprising to you, but many people do not like being told how they must/must not live.
Do you truly want to eat and drink off of poison? Are you seriously that daft?
Some do, some don't. Some are, some aren't. Some make a value judgement, some are ignorant. Honest question for you: why do you care if I choose to eat or drink off of poison?

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By marvdmartian on 11/26/2013 7:32:42 AM , Rating: 2
1. Too often, his "vision" is short-sighted, like banning large sodas. Okay, so now I have to buy two, to get the same volume. Really saved all the fatties from themselves, didn't he??

2. Not everyone is a sheeple, requiring constant intervention from nanny-state types like Bloomberg. Some people actually LIKE to make their own decisions. It's part of what makes us Americans, and not lemmings.

RE: Who Died and Made This Guy King?
By Flunk on 11/26/13, Rating: 0
By Florinator on 11/26/2013 11:53:19 AM , Rating: 2
But there are checks and balances... The ban was struck down in court and it's being appealed currently, if I'm not mistaken. New York City is not a kingdom, not yet anyways... there is hope... ;-)

Every city should do this
By TheDoc9 on 11/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Every city should do this
By Omega215D on 11/25/2013 12:37:05 PM , Rating: 2
I would hope not because those styrofoam cups provide better insulation and keep my McDonald's sweet tea cool and my hot chocolate warm for longer periods. I haven't seen one used for soda as they usually use recycled cardboard or plastic It's also going to increase the cost of take out food due to the push for the greener cartons that cost more and may hurt a small business owner. I'd rather they have incentives for using something else instead of a full on ban.

RE: Every city should do this
By aurareturn on 11/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Every city should do this
By Omega215D on 11/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Every city should do this
By aurareturn on 11/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Every city should do this
By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 4:02:22 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know why he's so upset.

It's just more evidence that this country is going to hell, that's why.

This isn't a New York issue. The Collectivists in Washington have the same agenda and make these kinds of choices for all of us, whether we want/need it or not.

The FDA, which once in a while gets stuff right, has long ago approved this stuff for use. There is no validated scientific evidence they pose any risk to human health.

Apparently Bloomberg knows better than people who have studied this stuff a gillion times, and has appointed himself your personal guardian angel.

RE: Every city should do this
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
What an intelligent come back.

RE: Every city should do this
By XZerg on 11/25/2013 3:48:46 PM , Rating: 1
ah he didn't account for the sidekick to step in...

here in Toronto they have banned giving out plastic bags and if a customer needs one, say at a grocery or convenient store, they are charged 5 cents per bag. I think that was a great step in becoming environmental friendly and cleaner.

as I have said, there are better ways/containers to keep things warm or cold without the bad health or environment problems.

RE: Every city should do this
By superstition on 11/26/2013 9:08:41 AM , Rating: 2
You're an ass.

RE: Every city should do this
By Solandri on 11/25/2013 2:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
Styrofoam cups aren't used for soda because ice is a self-moderating chiller. It reduces the temperature to the freezing point of water, but not below, and it maintains it at that temperature until the last bit of ice melts. Since it works so well, it allows restaurants to use regular wax-lined cups which take up a lot less space during transportation and storage.

There is no similar magical substance for keeping a drink hot at a specific temperature. So you have to rely on insulation.

RE: Every city should do this
By TheDoc9 on 11/25/2013 3:19:17 PM , Rating: 2
Eating plastic is dangerous. There's no doubt that it's great for the business owner because it's cheaper.

And yes, I can go down to the drive through right now and pick up a soda in a Styrofoam cup. It's cheaper, so it's used more often. Plastic lined paper cups aren't much better....

RE: Every city should do this
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:33:48 PM , Rating: 2
That's why I'm coming out with a new line of enriched uranium cubes. Hopefully my company will be able to start shipping in mid 2014.

RE: Every city should do this
By daboom06 on 11/25/2013 12:46:40 PM , Rating: 2
it's weird to complain about this because the people that do aren't the ones actually using the stuff. hipsters and health and environmentally conscious people wouldnt be eating food that comes in styrofoam because the food is bad/not organic/too mainstream.

banning styrofoam is like male politicians legislating the rights of females.

or 1700s england deciding what's best for the colonies.

the third-party 'benevolence' has nothing to do with their well-being. everyone has their own agenda, so let the users decide if they want to use.


RE: Every city should do this
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
I already mostly avoid drinks that come in plastic containers for a few reasons. It is almost impossible to avoid food in plastic completely but you can do things like not microwave food in plastic containers and skip the bottled water.

RE: Every city should do this
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
One of the biggest no no's I can see has to be those plastic tea pots.

RE: Every city should do this
By Solandri on 11/26/2013 12:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
The only way to avoid drinks in plastic containers is to buy the ones in glass containers. Cans (both aluminum soft drink cans and tin food cans) have a thin plastic lining on the inside to prevent the contents from corroding the metal.

RE: Every city should do this
By Jeffk464 on 11/26/2013 12:28:58 AM , Rating: 2
I drink a bunch of home brewed tea instead of soda, Gatorade, etc.

I agree
By XZerg on 11/25/2013 1:27:55 PM , Rating: 3
Personally I am tired of seeing hot food and drinks provided in containers made of styrofoam that are deformed or burnt due to the content's heat. That in itself poses a decent risk to health. There are plenty of better alternatives to store/carry food and drinks like paper or plastic based containers that do not exhibit similar characteristics. I would personally prefer paper due to its recyclable and faster decomposition characteristics.

RE: I agree
By nafhan on 11/25/2013 2:23:05 PM , Rating: 2
Well, two things here:
1) If you're getting these containers that hot, they're more of a risk, true.
2) If you're eating stuff out of these containers often enough for the styrenes to pose a health risk, the food contents of the containers are probably more of a health concern (generally, I'm sure you can find some healthy hot stuff sold in styrofoam if you try).

RE: I agree
By XZerg on 11/25/2013 3:44:47 PM , Rating: 1
i don't eat out much to use these things but there are times it can't be helped and is the only option. the last time i had the "pleasure" of using these was when I was at a full day training session where they only had these cups for coffee or water. but even those few blue moon days i find it annoying that people do not seem to realize the simple fact that hot stuff and styrofoam don't mix well.

RE: I agree
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:28:30 PM , Rating: 2
True, but I think the line the paper cups with plastic instead of wax these days. Ah I remember the olden days where you could scratch the wax off the cup with your fingernails. The fact is glass or stailess steel are probably the safest health wise for food prep, and serving.

RE: I agree
By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
they line

RE: I agree
By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 3:55:41 PM , Rating: 4
Personally I am tired of seeing hot food and drinks provided in containers made of styrofoam that are deformed or burnt due to the content's heat.


There's absolutely NO NEED for a Government regulation that when we can effect the same change, through our own choices, without all the Government clap-trap in the middle.

RE: I agree
By FaaR on 11/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: I agree
By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 4:30:22 PM , Rating: 5
A: not all people know good from bad

Mayor Doomberg, is that you?

RE: I agree
By slunkius on 11/26/13, Rating: 0
RE: I agree
By Just Tom on 12/2/2013 2:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
The differences between lead in gas and styrofoam are legion but I'll stick with two 1) other people breathed in the lead emitted from my tailpipe, other people are not exposed to any harmful effects from the sytrofoam container my food was served in; and 2) there was robust science linking lead levels then present in the environment due to its use as a fuel additive to a whole host of health problems, no such comparable research is exists for styrofoam.

I will be all in favor of a styrofoam ban when there is research that it is detrimental to health at levels currently present in the environment. Until then let the market decide.

Bloomberg announces he's going to block out the sun
By Solandri on 11/25/2013 2:33:11 PM , Rating: 4
With a giant metal disc which will continuously shade NYC all hours of the day.

Because sunlight causes cancer.

By Jeffk464 on 11/25/2013 3:29:45 PM , Rating: 2
but it also causes hapiness

By Alexvrb on 11/25/2013 10:44:21 PM , Rating: 2
Right, and thus in his mind he's curing two diseases at the same time!

RE: Bloomberg announces he's going to block out the sun
By Samus on 11/26/2013 6:50:16 AM , Rating: 2
new yorkers are pretty happy people ;)

By superflex on 11/26/2013 12:51:41 PM , Rating: 2
Tell that to a Jets fan, or a Knicks fan or a Giants fan.

Ask a plastic expert before making decisions
By chrisld on 11/25/2013 3:29:52 PM , Rating: 2
Might be wise to ask a plastic expert before making decisions of such magnitude. I am one (see Phantom Plastics website for proof) and would be happy to give meaningful input based on facts rather than feelings.

They burned polystyrene and determined that the gas was toxic. That's no surprise but unrealistic. The most toxic polymer when burnt is wool. Will be be outlawing sheep next month?

Plastic foam saves a giant amount of oil and energy by insulating our homes for example. It turns out to be a very green solution (backed up by facts).

RE: Ask a plastic expert before making decisions
By FaaR on 11/25/13, Rating: -1
RE: Ask a plastic expert before making decisions
By Reclaimer77 on 11/25/2013 4:38:34 PM , Rating: 3
The FDA says it doesn't. Hundreds of independent studies say there is NO health risk to humans.

The Mayor of New York and Dailytech say different.

Hmmm, who do I go with here? Tough choice!

By Dorkyman on 11/25/2013 8:40:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, but you forgot that the FDA is part of the Giant Chemical Companies Poisoning Our Children (GCCPOC for short) cartel. No one is safe. We are all doomed. Doomed, I say!

Look, there's really no way to discuss this with the GCCPOC believers. It's a religion to them, and as such there are basic tenets taken on faith and thus not subject to question.

By JediJeb on 11/27/2013 5:17:58 PM , Rating: 1
Studies indicate the average person living in urban areas receives around 0.4-0.6 ppm per day. That paper said the risk to drinking water due to styrene seeping into the water supply was much lower (maybe 0.002 ppm per day for a "polluted" supply.

This quote right here is wrong on so many levels scientifically.

First off you don't get a dose of 0.4-0.6ppm per day unless you explain what the units represent. If you consume 1g of something that is contaminated with 0.4ppm they you receive a total of 0.0000004g of that contaminate. If you consume one Kg of the same material then you receive 0.0004g of that contaminate. So are people receiving 0.0000004-0.0000006g of styrene per day or are they receiving 0.0004-0.0006g per day or some other amount. A value of 0.4ppm is worthless without the background information needed to understand what it means.

The other is about a polluted water supply with 0.002ppm styrene in it since the Federal limit allow in a drinking water supply is 0.0005ppm or 0.5 micrograms per liter. Anything above that and the water system has to send out a letter to every customer telling them of the problem. And even if your water supply is contaminated at 0.002ppm then you would only receive 2 micrograms of styrene for every liter of water you drink from that supply. Not to mention this minute amount could easily be removed with the filter in a Britta water pitcher.

The only ones spreading FUD around here are the ones like Mayor Bloomberg who are acting like the world is ending due to someone eating from a Styrofoam plate. I guarantee you that this year more people will die in New York City from sexually transmitted diseases than will die from styrene ingestion from these cups and plates yet I don't hear the mayor trying to ban sex. Alcohol consumption will also cause more damage to New Yorkers this year than styrene will and you won't see them banning alcohol at Time's Square this New Years Eve. I bet if you convert the dosage of Styrofoam soot those rats received to the equivalent dosage of alcohol they would have died even quicker.

I am just amazed how these days legitimate science is thrown out the window or ignored while some half baked experiment that produces some frightening result that may or may not be valid gets a sensational headline. No wonder so many people without a science background go around frightened to death of the big bad chemistry.

By superstition on 11/26/2013 9:07:30 AM , Rating: 2
"Given the human body's robust systems for repairing DNA and eliminating toxins..."

It's not so robust when it's under attack from so many simultaneous toxins.

RE: hmm
By superstition on 11/26/2013 9:10:33 AM , Rating: 2
I tried to make a list of some of them but the posting mechanism on this site is really messed up lately.

Fix it.

Compulsive rule making
By DBissett on 11/25/2013 12:46:07 PM , Rating: 2
Just more compulsive rule making by a guy who apparently can't help himself. This really ought to be named the new disorder du jour, and pretty much all our elected officials need to be examined for it before being cleared to run for office. Also, they need to be tested to see if they know how to read and correctly interpret scientific data.

Not sure...
By Arkive on 11/25/2013 1:00:57 PM , Rating: 2

I wonder if Pepsi and KFC are happy about the free advertising on this one.

By BifurcatedBoat on 11/25/2013 7:40:51 PM , Rating: 2
but first, noone should be banned from buying styrofoam for themselves. If you go into the store and pick it out, that's your responsibility.

For the restaurants, I think it's acceptable to let the people vote on health issues directly, but it shouldn't be at Bloomberg's sole discretion.

By robinthakur on 11/26/2013 5:43:44 AM , Rating: 2
When I visited New York from the UK, we found it shocking at how much disposable plastic cutlery and Styrofoam plates etc. are used then thrown away (not recycled) in hotels, diners etc. rather than having china plates and metal knives and forks that get washed. Apart from anything else it made breakfast a rather cheap, depressing affair...did nobody ever consider that all this is made with a finite resource:oil? If it gives you cancer, that's also bad obviously, but it seems to be used far too much in general.

Good Old Liberalism
By Arsynic on 11/26/2013 11:21:10 AM , Rating: 2
Liberals are so pro choice. But only when it comes to scraping a fetus out of a woman's uterus. But she can't choose to drink a big gulp, she can't choose styrofoam and thanks to Obamacare she can't choose what insurance she wants and the doctor to scrape the next fetus out of her uterus.

By jmarchel on 11/27/2013 10:15:58 AM , Rating: 2
What is going on with the Left being obsessed about cancer or illenss in general ? Styrofoam is causing cancer, power lines are causing cancer, cell phones are causing cancer, vaccines are causing austism ...
And they claim Republicans are anti science.

By Dr. Kenneth Noisewater on 11/27/2013 1:41:24 PM , Rating: 2
In honor of Nanny Bloomberg (and my flight from NYC) I may have to stop by Sonic for a 44oz styrofoam cup of soda and a corn dog later on..

By catavalon21 on 12/3/2013 12:00:50 AM , Rating: 2
Since there is no such thing as a Styrofoam (R) cup or plate, what does he really intend to ban?

From the Styrofoam company website:

So next time you get a cup of java to go, remember, you can't drink coffee from a STYROFOAM cup - because there is no such thing!

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki