World's largest styrofoam maker proposes to recycle New York City's waste foam products

With New York mayor Michael Bloomberg set to approve a city-wide ban on polystyrene cups and food trays, the world's largest manufacturer of foam products has proposed an alternate solution.

Dart Container has offered to clean food waste from the foam, then buy it for $160 per ton, if city trucks would collect plastic foam from residents, according to New York business publisher Crain's New York Business.  The company would truck the items to a recycling plant in Indiana.

Dart, which would lose a big chunk of business if New York City approved the ban, hopes to convince the City Council that the plan was not only an environmentally-friendly solution, but an economically smart choice.

It costs the city  $2 million a year to put polystyrene in landfills. Dart's purchase of the items to recycle would reportedly provide a $4 million revenue stream to the city.

Cleaning and transportation of high-volume, low-weight items have traditionally hampered Styrofoam and other polystyrene item's ability to be recycled, and according to Stanford Alumni Magazine, 2.5 million tons of polystyrene are dumped into landfills each year.

To address the environmental damages associated with polystyrene, mayor Bloomberg had early this year suggested a ban on foam container. The sanitation committee of the City Council, yesterday held a hearing on proposals to ban the containers.

Recycling alternatives were also discussed.

Though the lightweight, heat-keeping plastic foam cups, are favoured by eateries they take a long time to degrade in landfills.

Such containers have been banned by San Francisco and several other cities.

Bloomberg intends to do the same in the biggest city in the US, where around 23,000 tonnes of foam per year ends up in the garbage.

According to restaurateurs alternatives to plastic foam are more expensive and less effective at insulating food.

Business groups and foam ban supporters remain divided on the feasibility of recycling the material.