Food Service Waste Reduction Act (A.1013/S.4168)

Date: 2017

                                A.1013 Kavanagh
                                S.4168 Krueger


Unshackle Upstate, a non-partisan, pro-taxpayer, pro-economic growth, education and advocacy coalition made up of business and trade organizations from all parts of Upstate New York, opposes this legislation.

This bill, titled the Food Service Waste Reduction Act, would require every state department, agency, board, public benefit corporation, public authority, commission, municipality, and their contractors and lessees to use food service ware made from material other than polystyrene foam, unless there is no compostable or recyclable alternative available at a price of not more than 15 percent higher. The bill also directs the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct a study on the desirability, feasibility and environmental impact of a statewide ban on the use of disposable Styrofoam food service ware.

The reasons the sponsor cites for enacting this measure are deeply flawed, and the sponsor has failed to consider the far-reaching impacts this measure would have in communities throughout the state.  Legislators should also be aware that a ban of this nature would jeopardize Upstate New York jobs, while also forcing businesses, families, schools, local governments, hospitals and others to spend more on foam alternatives.  

Our primary concern is that this legislation would result in the loss of jobs for Upstate employers.  Four companies in the state operate nine facilities that employ more than 1,500 people.  These companies make products used by restaurants, government agencies, groceries, schools, hospitals and many other institutions throughout the state.  Most of these companies are located in Upstate New York and this legislation would severely impact them. At a time when Upstate New York still faces significant economic challenges, we simply cannot afford to enact laws that will destroy good paying, middle class jobs.

This measure would also increase costs for businesses, consumers, local governments and institutions such as schools and hospitals.  Alternatives to foam products are generally much more expensive, and do not offer much in terms of environmental benefits.  A 2013 study of proposed foam bans New York City found that banning foam products would cost businesses, consumers and institutions millions of dollars each year because foam alternatives cost significantly more than foam products do.  To cite just one example, the price for substitute hot cups is, on average, 2.5 times the cost of equivalent polystyrene foam cups.

The sponsor claims that polystyrene foam “is very difficult to recycle.”  This is inaccurate, as there is a nationwide collection infrastructure of more than 200 collection sites to support recycling efforts.  There is even a foam drop-off site in Yonkers, and a polystyrene recycling program has been proposed for New York City. Recycled polystyrene foam is used to make a wide variety of items.  Once collected, the foam products are compacted into dense bricks and or pellets that are then used to make new products. In fact, the makers of polystyrene foam have been promoting foam recycling, because doing so reduces solid waste, prevents pollution, saves energy and reduces

The sponsor also states that polystyrene is a “suspect carcinogen and neurotoxin” because styrene is used to make polystyrene.  Styrene and polystyrene are fundamentally different, however. Polystyrene meets stringent USFDA standards for use in food contact packaging and has a “Generally Recognized as Safe” designation from the FDA. In fact, some health organizations encourage the use of single-use polystyrene food service products because they provide increased food safety.

The sponsor’s memorandum in support of this bill states that the fiscal impact on localities would be “minimal” and there would be no fiscal impact on businesses and individuals.  This is belied by the language of the bill itself, which would permit the use of food service ware made from material other than polystyrene foam, unless there is no compostable or recyclable alternative available at a price not more than 15 percent higher

We urge lawmakers to better educate themselves about the adverse job and cost impacts this measure would have.  We also urge you to recognize that polystyrene food service products are more economical than alternatives. 

For these reasons, Unshackle Upstate opposes the enactment of this legislation.