Mayor Bloomberg Says No More Polystyrene Foam Dishes in NYC, Says it Can Cause Cancer
November 25, 2013 11:51 AM
comment(s) - last by
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
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. (
) 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 hasn't been shy about micromanaging New Yorkers' buying decisions.
[Image Source: Getty Images]
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.
, 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 p
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 p
can cause leukemia and lymphoma, as well as other non-cancer issues including fatigue, depression, and headaches.
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
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
's (EPA) website are primarily on lab rats inhaling a massive amount of vaporized (burned) p
. The human nose smells a distinctive odor for p
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.
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
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, p
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 p
. And in NYC and other regions, some chains like McDonald's Corp. (
), Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin Brands Group Inc. (
), and The Wendy's Comp. (
) have already eliminated p
, 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,
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.
The New York Post
World Health Organization [PDF]
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Ask a plastic expert before making decisions
11/25/2013 8:40:04 PM
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.
"If you mod me down, I will become more insightful than you can possibly imagine." -- Slashdot
Study: Childhood Violence Linked to Sugary Soft Drinks
August 19, 2013, 4:38 PM
NYC Mayor Bloomberg: If You Want to Live Longer, Move to New York City
December 29, 2011, 1:30 PM
New Technique Uses Waste Chicken Feathers to Create Durable Thermoplastics
April 4, 2011, 6:21 AM
Teen Smoking Linked to Reduced Brain Activity
March 8, 2011, 1:36 PM
Study: Smoking Cigarettes Causes Genetic Damage in a Matter of Minutes
January 17, 2011, 9:48 AM
Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen Donates $100M to Fight Raging Ebola Epidemic
October 23, 2014, 6:05 PM
Cool Science Video of the Day: Carnivorous Leech Eats Giant Jungle Worm
October 16, 2014, 6:44 PM
Facebook CEO and Founder, Mark Zuckerberg, Donates $25M to Fight Ebola
October 14, 2014, 5:06 PM
Chagrined Over Leaks, CDC Confirms First U.S. Ebola Diagnosis in Dallas, Texas
September 30, 2014, 5:55 PM
Nail Polish May Soon be Able to Detect Date Rape Drugs
August 26, 2014, 7:57 AM
SpaceX Falcon 9-R Rocket Suffers Malfunction, Self-Destructs During Test Flight
August 23, 2014, 9:36 AM
Most Popular Articles
Chinese Government Declares Digital War Against America's Top Tech Firms
October 20, 2014, 12:07 PM
Samsung Announces Galaxy S5 Plus with Snapdragon 805 Processor, LTE-A
October 22, 2014, 3:40 PM
Windows 8.1 + Android "Sell Mini PC" w/ Bay Trail Creates New PC Form Factor
October 20, 2014, 5:07 PM
Apple's iPad Air 2 Features Triple-core A8X Processor, 2GB of RAM
October 21, 2014, 8:32 PM
Apple Releases iOS 8.1; Adds Apple Pay Support, SMS Relay, Instant Hotspot
October 20, 2014, 1:00 PM
Latest Blog Posts
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information