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Local sustainability manager, restaurant owner reflect on New York’s polystyrene foam ban

Polystyrene foam products are banned for NYS businesses as of Jan. 1, 2021.
Polystyrene foam products are banned for NYS businesses as of Jan. 1, 2021.(WBNG 12 News)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 9:55 PM EST
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(WBNG) -- The change of the calendar year meant an adjustment for businesses throughout New York State, which marked a ban on polystyrene foam used for liquids and meals.

Tioga County’s sustainability manager said the action was taken to curb its environmental and waste management issues.

“Because it stays around so long, it doesn’t degrade. But you can find it in the environment,” said Sustainability Manager Ellen Pratt with Tioga’s Economic Development & Planning. “It’s not recyclable in many places... Tioga County being one.”

Steve Lupo, with the state’s Restaurant Association and owner of Lupo’s S&S Char-pit, said there are pros and cons to this situation.

“It’s much more expensive, the paper, or the stuff that decomposes...,” said Lupo. “The clamshells are 49 cents for the new paper and they’re 20 cents for the foam. Cups are 19 cents. The foam cups, like for coffee, were 6 cents. But just the black and white of it, it’s definitely better for the environment.”

Both Pratt and Lupo said the change was not a surprise to businesses and counties. Pratt heard about it in April or May of 2021.

For any business or not-for-profit struggling to navigate this modification, she said the state is here to help.

“Change is hard,” said Pratt. “The state has allowed for exemptions and waivers. If you haven’t done that already, you should make sure you apply for the waiver.”

To learn more about the waiver, visit this website.