Monday, February 25, 2013

Keeping the polystyrene ban in perspective

Chain haters are singing hosannas to Mayor Bloomberg for proposing a New York City ban on polystyrene food containers, a measure they see as an elbow to the windpipe of McDonald’s and its ilk.  If they’d ventured into those places anytime recently, they’d have learned the major brands dropped Styrofoam years ago for almost every product except coffee.
It’s not the huge corporations that will catch a wallop, but the countless bodegas, Korean delis, salad bars and Chinese takeout joints that provide a first rung to many foreign arrivals. Take a stroll at lunch through almost any New York office, be it filled with lawyers or telemarketers, and you’ll see desktop diners picking at all sorts of ethnic or street foods in clamshell boxes.
The places that rely on that packaging often lack the scale to switch painlessly to other takeout options. Maybe that’s why they’ve lagged behind the big chains in making a change already.
The containers have to be phased out. The Mayor’s economic and environmental reasons are valid.
But hopefully he and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will move slowly enough to let demand climb, raising production to the point where recyclable or biodegradable packaging is affordable for all places offering takeout service.

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