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NYC moves to ban foam food containers

New York City will become the largest municipality to ban single-use foam products, dMiles Dixon/Metro

The ubiquitous white clamshell containers, famous for holding mole-covered enchiladas and halal meat with white sauce over rice, will no longer fill the garbage pails of New York.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a ban Thursday on single-use foam products — including food containers and foam packing peanuts — saying they can’t be recycled and banning them will help save the environment, knocking some 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene foam, a.k.a. Styrofoam, from the city's waste every year.

New York becomes the largest municipality to ban foam, despite some attempts to make it the largest to recycle them.

“We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less," de Blasio said in a statement.

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Street food vendors using foam clamshells along a busy stretch of Broadway near Wall Street weren't losing much sleep over the ban.

"Maybe there will be some customers who will complain about the new packaging," street meat seller Mohamed said from his truck on Cedar Street. "I'll have to figure out an alternative, but I'm not concerned."

"It's a bold-faced lie that it cannot be recycled," said Michael Westerfield of Dart Container, one of the country’s biggest producers of expanded foam goods.

Westerfield testified at a 2013 Council hearing offering to create a pilot program to sort foam containers and clean them of food.

The mayor's office said Thursday that while Dart was able to secure a company to recycle foam products at no cost to the city for five years, there were no assurances that the program could get off the ground fast enough for the city.

In a letter to the administration, the Sanitation Department said it was concerned that Dart was the only buyer for recycled foam.

The ban begins July 1, with a 6-month grace period before city agencies enforce the law, and warnings issued instead of fines throughout 2016.

Catharina Thuemling contributed to this report.

 
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