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Bye bye Styrofoam takeout containers


"Holding only the free leftovers" by nSeika is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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styrofoam takeout container

“Holding only the free leftovers” by nSeika is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The ban on Styrofoam takeout containers and packing peanuts goes into effect in less than two years.

New York State will soon say goodbye to polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam). The State Legislature passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ban on polystyrene, which will take effect January of 2022. Despite heavy lobbying from the plastics industry including Dart and the American Chemistry Council the polystyrene ban was still successfully included in the 2020 state budget because of heavy public support and outreach. This ban will apply to polystyrene food service containers and loose fill packing peanuts. 

In addition to the governor’s leadership, members of the  legislature have long advocated for action on Styrofoam with proposed legislation going back over a decade including Senators Liz Krueger and Brian Kavanagh as well as Assemblymembers Steve Englebright, Nily Rozic and Felix Ortiz among many others. Due to their early support for action, we can now say goodbye to this toxic and environmentally harmful product. 

Polystyrene poses public health hazards containing hazardous and toxic chemicals that can leach into our food. Polystyrene is a plastic product created from hazardous and carcinogenic petrochemicals including styrene, benzene, and naptha. The main component of polystyrene is styrene which is a neurotoxin and a probable carcinogen posing a human health hazard and making Styrofoam the only food packaging that is created from a potential carcinogen. 

Besides these public health hazards polystyrene also poses harmful environmental hazards especially here in the Hudson Valley. Pollution documented along the shorelines of the Hudson River identified polystyrene based products — such as Styrofoam takeout containers — found in significant quantities during the annual Riverkeeper Sweep. This ban will ensure this public health and environmental hazard is removed from our environment for good. 

The ban applies widely to food service establishments including temporary ones, caterers, food trucks, pushcarts, delis, grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, hospitals, adult care facilities, nursing homes, elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities. The ban provides for specific exemptions for prepackaged food, as well as packaging for raw meat, pork, seafood, poultry or fish. In addition, there is a “financial hardship waiver” that can be sought for small businesses with financial hardships and facilities such as soup kitchens, food pantries, and places of worship that serve the needy.

Riverkeeper is thrilled to put an end to this highly toxic and environmentally destructive product destroying our waterways. Thank you to all our members and supporters for all the help reaching out to lawmakers to ensure this ban was passed.

Learn how Riverkeeper influences the state budget and environmental policy in our legislative briefing webinar on Tuesday, April 14. Register here.

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