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Why Did the NY Supreme Court Throw Out NYC’s Plastic Container Ban?

In New York City, a controversial law banning food containers made from plastic foam has been overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. Although the ban initially had bipartisan support in the state, opponents say recycling was never seriously considered as an alternative. In 2013, New York City lawmakers voted to ban plastic foam containers, unless […]

Why Did the NY Supreme Court Throw Out NYC’s Plastic Container Ban?

Recyclable garbage consisting of glass plastic metal and paperIn New York City, a controversial law banning food containers made from plastic foam has been overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. Although the ban initially had bipartisan support in the state, opponents say recycling was never seriously considered as an alternative.

In 2013, New York City lawmakers voted to ban plastic foam containers, unless an investigation determined that the plastic containers could be effectively recycled instead. After the law went into effect this July, a group of custom product packaging manufacturers, restaurant owners, and recyclers sued the city. The group successfully argued that recycling the food containers was not only a viable plan, but one that would save the city money.

New York Supreme Court Judge Margaret Chan ruled that the Department of Sanitation didn’t properly consider industry estimates about the market for recycled foam containers. The plastic and recycling industry found that 21 companies were willing to buy used plastic containers from the city, and as much as 75% of them could be recycled, saving $400,000 a year.

The Supreme Court specifically cited Department of Sanitation Commissioner Katheryn Garcia for failing to hear both sides before making her decision. Judge Chan wrote in her ruling that Garcia failed to “clearly state the basis of her conclusions when the evidence contrary to her findings were clearly before her.”

Consumers all over the world are often confused about how to best recycle plastic products, and the New York ruling shows that even many public officials don’t know their recycling options.

Even so, plastic recycling is an increasingly popular alternative to taxes or bans on materials like bags and containers. This September, Columbus, Ohio launched a city-wide plastic bag recycling program rather than levying a tax on shoppers.

“The idea is we will try this method first and see if we can increase the amount of reusable bags used by customers and decrease the amount of single-use bags,” said Erin Miller, Columbus’ official environmental steward.

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