ALBANY COUNTY Getting a hot cup of coffee or take-out food in a Styrofoam container will soon be a rare, if not forgotten, experience at local food establishments.
The Albany County Legislature on Tuesday, Nov. 12, approved the Food Service Waste Reduction Act by a vote of 24-12, which prohibits usage of polystyrene foam containers, commonly known as Styrofoam, at chain food service businesses. The ban will be effective in six months and only applies to food businesses with at least 15 locations nationally.
People filled the room on Tuesday and debated the law for more than a hour during a public hearing before the ban’s passage later that night.
An overwhelming majority of comments were in support of the ban, with most pointing to health or environmental concerns of the product that many claimed is difficult to recycle. Those who rallied against the law were all industry representatives or lobbyists.
Paul Tick of Delmar pointed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and International Agency for Research on Cancer identifying styrene, which is used to make Styrofoam, as a “possible carcinogen.”
In 2006, Tick said, Americans disposed of 870,000 tons of polystyrene foam containers, which included 25 billion such cups. The EPA has determined the polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth highest producer of hazardous waste nationally.
“These went into our streets, our parks, our waterways, clogged up our landfills where it takes hundreds of years to decompose,” Tick said. “The companies that produce Styrofoam suggest that we recycle it rather than restrict it, but there is numerous problems with recycling Styrofoam.”
Several speakers, along with lawmakers, said recycling Styrofoam is not viable, because there is no profit to be made for recycling companies. There is also the need for such containers to be cleaned of food waste.
Mike Levy, senior director for the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group of the American Chemistry Council, rebutting environmental claims against Styrofoam.