Styrofoam Containers to be Banned in NYC

It’s official. Starting July 2015 New York City will join the likes of San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland in its decision of banning the use of Styrofoam containers.

The primary motivation behind this recent change is due to the negative environmental implications of the said material, which mainly deals with its inability to decompose and be recycled. While this initiative will benefit the city in the long run, New Yorkers will have to bear the burden of the cost associated with using foam alternatives of about $91.3 million annually according to a study conducted by MB Public Affairs.

Despite many environmentalists welcome the ban, many vendors fear it. According to a cost analysis conducted by Cleanwateraction.org, foam alternatives will cause the vendors to incur an extra 15-75% cost. For the average street vendor, this increase in expense may eat away at their already little net margins, causing them to fall into serious financial hardships.

There are, however, some leeway to this new restriction. Vendors will be allowed a 6 months grace period when the ban takes place to get rid of excess Styrofoam products to minimize salvage cost. Furthermore, should the vendor make less than $500,000 annually or is a non-profit, they may qualify for an exemption. An exemption may also be granted if the vendors prove they are subject to extreme financial distress as a result of the increase in cost from using foam alternatives.

Personally, I feel that this change will not really affect much of how street vendors operate in the long scheme. Although there are some parties that will undoubtedly suffer some financial loss in the short term, the fact that they can simply increase the price of their goods means that they will be able to negative this disadvantage in the long run.

-Yue Song