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Polystyrene ban in New York to begin Jan. 1


Between the COVID-19 pandemic and Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, you may not have realized that a little noticed provision in the 2020 budget places a ban on polystyrene in New York.

Ready or not, the ban begins on Jan. 1.

Here’s more from the DEC.

Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics, and a former EPA Region 2 administrator, told Capital Tonight that the state Department of Environmental Conservation needs to act quickly to let business owners know that the new law is going into effect. 

“Our world is drowning in plastic,” Enck said. “Scientists tell us that in the next decade, for every three pounds of fish in the ocean, there will be one pound of plastic.” 

You may know polystyrene as “Styrofoam,” which is a tradename used by Dow. 

“So, in order for you and I not to be sued by Dow, we call it polystyrene,” Enck explained.

From an environmental perspective, polystyrene is a problem piece of plastic. It’s made from the chemical styrene, which is a suspected carcinogen.

New York will join seven other states that have already banned polystyrene. Both New York City and Albany County already have bans in place.

As of Jan. 1, any single-use disposable polystyrene foam food service containers including bowls, cartons, clamshells, cups, lids, plates and trays will be banned. Additionally, polystyrene packing peanuts will be illegal. 

“The way to think about this is that it’s most food packaging, so things you get in restaurants, caterers, also schools are covered by this,” Enck said. “For retail food stores, it’s only banned if you are eating it off premises.”

There are some exemptions to the law, including polystyrene egg cartons, and the white polystyrene trays used by grocery stores to package raw meat and fish. 

Businesses that don’t abide by the law will be fined.

“It’s up to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce the law, and I believe the first violation is a warning,” according to Enck. “After that there are fines.”


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