This is a picture of a piece of expanded polystyrene foam- the ubiquitous squishy plastic foam that takeout food containers, hot coffee cups, hospital and school meal trays and packing peanuts are all commonly made from- under an electron microscope. Plastic foam (often referred to by the brand name Styrofoam) is lightweight and well insulating; it’s also unrecyclable and pretty damn near indestructible when put into a landfill.
There’s been talk of a NYC ban on plastic foam products for years, and a ban was actually approved under Mayor Bloomberg in 2013, but the city decided to do a study to see whether there might be an effective and efficient way to recycle it. That study concluded that trying to recycle the foam wouldn’t be feasible, so now it’s out.
You can read more about the plastic foam ban, which goes into effect city-wide on July 1st (though there are some exceptions for small businesses), from the New York Times here and here. The Department of Education has already started the process of swapping out compostable trays for expanded plastic ones, and by summer, the Papaya King will be serving their Pina Colada drinks in a new kind of cup and a whole lot less plastic garbage will be floating in our waterways and landing on our beaches. It’s another step to a more sustainable city.