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NYS Assembly Minority Leader Opposes Proposed NYC Food Container Ban

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The New York State Assembly minority leader appeared in front of a New York City council committee this week, urging officials to halt a proposal that would ban plastic foam containers in the city. He says such a ban would cost his district jobs. Environmentalists say turning away from such a ban would cost the land and sea.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this year proposed a ban on food and beverage plastic foam containers, or polystyrene foam. These are the ubiquitous takeout containers from restaurants and other food places. Republican state Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb says taking these food containers out of New York City takes jobs out of his Finger Lakes region in upstate New York.

Kolb spoke Monday at a seven-hour New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management hearing.

Laura Haight is a senior environmental associate at the New York Public Interest Research Group, which supports the proposed ban.

Kolb, who says this is the first proposed ban out of New York City that he has vocally opposed, says two manufacturing facilities in his district could take a hit.

Eric Goldstein is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, another supporter of the ban.

Kolb says it makes more sense to take a broader look at the recycling and waste-stream picture.

The NRDC’s Goldstein stresses that recycling Styrofoam is difficult, and there are several readily-available replacement-type containers kinder to the environment without being costly. However, some of the ban’s opponents, such as Restaurant Action Alliance NYC, and the National Federation of Independent Business, cite costs to their businesses of nearly twice as high if the ban were to go into effect. Goldstein contends West Coast municipalities with such a ban have little cost differences in either direction.

New York City would not be the first in the state to have this type of ban. Suffolk County, on Long Island, enacted in 1988 a ban on all food containers or other packaging made of polystyrene or polyvinyl chloride. In Albany County, a new law will prohibit chain establishments from selling any prepared food or drink in a polystyrene foam container.  The Times Union reports that the ban, effective in six months, passed the county legislature in mid-November, and only applies to businesses with at least 15 locations nationally.

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