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Group Demands Recycling Requirement For All Styrofoam In NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- An environmental advocacy group on Monday called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and city agencies to expand recycling requirements for polystyrene foam.

The Coalition to Put a Lid on It NYC called for the mayor and the Department of Sanitation that would cover 100 percent of products made by polystyrene foam – usually known by the Dow Chemical brand name Styrofoam – rather than the 10 percent now covered.

"Our small businesses work long hours all year long to provide for our families, and every added cost comes right out of our pockets, or the pockets of our customers," said Jose Paguay, owner of D'sosa Gourmet in the Bronx. "This will means hundreds of dollars to me and my family every month, and I know my customers will not be any happier about paying more to cover those costs. Recycling makes sense, while a ban that only covers food-service products targets our businesses in a way that is simply unfair."

Restrictions on polystyrene foam were passed by the City Council last year, under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The foam bill approved just over a year ago allowed for lawmakers to ban the product if, after a yearlong study, the commissioner of the Sanitation Department finds the material can't be recycled effectively. The yearlong study ends on Jan. 1, and a ban could take effect in July, according to published reports.

The food-service industry has long valued polystyrene foam for keeping food warm or cool, but environmentalists see as a landfill-clogging, litter-generating scourge.

The Coalition to Put a Lid on It said the Department of Sanitation has acknowledged that foam can be recycled without endangering workers, and collected curbside without any demand for new trucks. A new study by the Freedonia Group forecast that the collection of polystyrene for recycling and export will rise 6.5 percent per year to 100 million pounds in 2016, the group said.

The group also said Plastic Recycling Inc. of Indianapolis has offered to buy New York City's foam, and has demonstrated market demand for five times the city's discarded foam products every year.

Paguay said in the news release that it is not realistic or beneficial for his business to quit using foam.

"If you care about the environment, how do you pass up a plan to recycle everything?" he said. "I could switch to 'paper' cups like Starbucks uses, but those cups are more expensive and they do not get recycled because they have a plastic liner in them. So the ban would only mean more items in the landfill, not less."

New Yorkers toss out about 23,000 tons of plastic foam per year, accounting for a fraction of the 3 million tons of trash the city spends $310 million annually to bury, but city officials say the foam also muddies efforts to compost food waste.

San Francisco and dozens of other U.S. cities already have nixed takeout containers made from what's technically called expanded polystyrene foam. It takes a long time to break down in landfills, and there's debate over how readily it can be recycled once it's soiled by food. City plastics recycling contractor Sims Municipal Recycling has said it can't currently process and market plastic foam.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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