Dec 19 - NYC Council Passes Foam Ban, E-Cig Ban, Mandatory Composting

Today the City Council for the nation's largest city, New York, approved several waste-related measures. Outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Expanded (EPS) Polystyrene Foam Packaging Ban

After a long and often heated debate in the Committee on Solid Waste last month and some additional amendments, the council unanimously passed Proposed Int 1060-A today. Restaurants and other food service providers will be prohibited from using EPS foam food packaging starting July 1, 2015, unless the Commissioner determines that recycling EPS is "economically feasible," "enviromentally effective" and "safe for employees" by January of the same year. Foam packaging peanuts would also be prohibited from use or retail sale.

Dart, a major manufacturer of foam products, lobbied hard against the legislation and attempted to move the city to recycle the material instead of considering a ban by 2015. However, as California cities have already found out, recycling EPS is not cost effective. Roughly 70 cities or counties have phased out foam food packaging in the Golden State, and we expect New York City to do the same in 2015. Read more about the impacts of foam food packaging.

Mandatory Commercial Composting

Proposed Int 1162-A establishes a commercial composting program for restaurants and large supermarkets by July 1, 2015. Food is the most prevalent item in the waste stream, especially in the restaurant and grocery businesses. When excess food, leftover food, and food scraps are sent to a landfill, the food decomposes and becomes a source of methane--a powerful greenhouse gas.

Increased access to composting combined with the EPS food packaging ban will work together for improved food waste collection, since compostable packaging, such as food containers and bags, can be used to make the process more convenient and less messy.

Electronic Cigarette Ban

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigs are a battery operated vaporizer and alternative to regular tobacco products. While smokers may be less likely to litter these products, there are issues with addiction, fire safety, and also recycling or disposal of unwanted e-cigs. Although not directly related to waste, Proposed Int 1210-A bans e-cigs in places where conventional smoking is currently prohibited. Such public and private places include public transit, retaurants, beaches, and office buildings. Read more in an article.