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Small Businesses and Pro-Foam Group Continue to Battle City's Styrofoam Ban

Armed with a lawsuit and a petition, one group is trying to reverse the city's ban.

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Just three weeks into the styrofoam ban, a group called the Restaurant Action Alliance is trying to get the city to change its mind. The group argues that forcing small businesses to swap out their to-go containers and cups puts an unfair burden on those business owners. So far, the RAA says it has 1,000 signatures from small business owners.

RAA president Robert Jackson is also pushing the notion that foam is recyclable: "Denying foam's recyclability is like denying the sky is blue. It just doesn't make sense," Jackson said, according to a Gothamist post. The city disagrees. It conducted a year-long study into the recycle-ability of styrofoam and found that it couldn't be recycled. That study is what led to the ban. Nonetheless, pro-foam groups including the RAA sued the city in April alleging that the foam is recyclable and that the sanitation commissioner was "was poised to" say as much, but City Hall overruled that and enacted the ban anyway. Styrofoam producer Dart has even said that it would fund "state of the art equipment" to recycle the foam, but it's unclear how, and if, that would work.

The RAA's latest argument about the financial burden of changing out styrofoam containers overlooks the fact that businesses that make less than half a million a year can apply for an exemption from the ban. When asked about it, Jackson told Gothamist: "Small business owners have a hard time just running their businesses." Apparently, applying for an exemption would be "just too hard."

The ban went into effect July 1, and it doesn't seem likely that the city will overturn it. No fines will be imposed on businesses for the first year of the ban (a warning will be issued, however), so there's still some time for places to figure out a new takeout container strategy.