New York City will begin officially enforcing its ban on styrofoam beginning Monday.
The city outlawed the material on January 1, 2019, but businesses were given a six-month transition period before the crackdown began. The ban largely affects food establishments that have used styrofoam for take-out or large beverages, and it also prohibits stores from selling “packing peanuts.” Businesses are encouraged to switch to compostable materials, including paper.
The city banned styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, because the material can’t be “recycled in a manner that is economically feasible” or “environmentally effective” in its recycling program. Violators will be fined $250 for the first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for third offenses and beyond.
“New York City’s ban on styrofoam is long overdue, and New Yorkers are ready to start using recyclable alternatives,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said last year when he announced the ban. “There’s no reason to continue allowing this environmentally unfriendly substance to flood our streets, landfills and waterways.”
The styrofoam ban in New York makes it the largest US city to ban the material. Other cities that have banned it include San Diego, Miami Beach, Seattle and Washington, DC. The material is considered environmentally unfriendly because it breaks into smaller pieces and is hard to clean up. It also absorbs toxins faster than other plastics, and it is not biodegradable.
Maine announced last month that it will ban styrofoam food containers statewide beginning in 2021. Maryland also banned the use of the material, but that state is giving businesses a year to comply. Connecticut is also mulling a ban.
Some businesses are taking action in anticipation of regulation and as customers demand more environmentally friendly materials. Large companies are also rolling out new food packaging that can be easily recycled. For example, Dunkin’ eliminated styrofoam cups in 2018 in favor of a new paper cup. So did McDonald’s, which said it would use renewable or recyclable materials in all of its packaging by 2025.
Starbucks is eliminating single-use plastic straws at its nearly 30,000 global locations by next year. Now the company is trying to figure out how to produce a new cup because it’s lined with plastic and is not recyclable in most places.