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  (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
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.

McDonald's
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



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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
quote:
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
quote:
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
quote:
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.
quote:
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... ;-)


"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson














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