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Gov. Cuomo proposes ban Styrofoam food containers, coffee cups, in NYS

The proposal also includes banning the sale of Styrofoam packing peanuts.

ALBANY, N.Y. — As part of his 2020 budget plan, Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a ban on polystyrene (commonly called Styrofoam) food and beverage containers in New York State. 

The proposal also includes banning Styrofoam packing peanuts.

Cuomo's proposal to ban these items in New York by 2022 would also prohibit the retail sale of polystyrene cups and plates to consumers.

Beyond the impact to restaurants, church groups holding pot luck suppers and fire departments raising funds through chicken barbecues would also presumably be prohibited from using them should the ban be enacted.

The State's Latest Ban

Cuomo, who has yet to say how he plans to close a $6 billion dollar state budget deficit, calls  banning Styrofoam products a "priority" because he claims they pose  a "public health hazard".

Environmentalists have called these polystyrene products a scourge that can last hundreds of years, due to their non biodegradable nature.

Under Cuomo's proposal, however, grocery stores would still be allowed to package meat on Styrofoam trays..and eggs in Styrofoam cartons.

Not A New Idea

Cuomo's idea is hardly a novel one.

Several other states and cities have already banned these products..and the City of Buffalo may be the next  to beat  the state to the punch. 

"We will not wait for the state to move before we begin movement on this," said Buffalo Common  Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who told WGRZ-TV that last week, prior to the Governor's  announcement, he had already submitted legislation for a city wide ban on may of these same products for review by the city's legal department.

Pridgen said he based his legislation on what he heard at a public hearing on the topic held by the Common Council last spring.

"Overwhelmingly the people who responded, responded by asking for such a ban," Pridgen said.

Higher Prices for Consumers

At that same hearing though, a representative of a firm that makes these products noted they are quite cost effective, something a local restaurateur agrees with.

"I buy them at a very reasonable price," said Margie Hawkins, owner of Margie's Soul Food, a takeout restaurant located in  the Broadway Market.

Hawkins uses polystyrene exclusively to serve up her wares to customers, and says she will likely have to raise prices if she is forced to use something else to serve them.

She also insisted there is not better product to serve hot food than Styrofoam.

"Why would you ban something that's been out there for years.. why would you do that?" Hawkins asked. "You want to ban something that has been used for years, and all the sudden make someone pay more out of their pocket for something that won't work as well anyway," she said. 

Will the 'Styrofoam Police' Come to Your Door? 

A member of Governor Cuomo's staff told 2 On Your Side that state residents (should the ban be enacted)  will not be liable for possessing a banned product should they be shipped something packed in foam peanuts.

"No. The onus is on manufacturers and retailers. Enforcement will be conducted at those levels, not the homes of consumers," wrote Jordan Levine, Deputy Communications Director for Energy and Environment, in an e-mail.

 Beyond the Headline 

Cuomo also proposes, as part of the bill, to authorize the State Department of Environmental Conservation to ban other packaging material "upon a finding of environmental impact".

When we asked the governor's office if this meant the DEC could then simply  skirt the legislature and enact policies on an "at will"? basis in  the future, he replied, "As drafted, the legislation would give DEC the authority to examine additional packing products for environmental impacts. Any additional proposed actions would have to go through DEC’s regulatory process, which includes rigorous stakeholder engagement and extensive public comment."  

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