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Sanitation Dept. Wants Styrofoam Use To-Go

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Styrofoam containers could soon be scrapped from all restaurants in the city if the Department of Sanitation has its way.

The department's recycling expert, Ron Gonen, said the city is discussing the possibility of banning use of polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, as it considers ways to double the city's recycling rate.

The Department of Sanitation has said that recycling Styrofoam is too expensive, and environmentalists have long complained that Styrofoam takes years to break down in landfills.

"We are looking at a lot of things," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "One of the things you may want to do, and a lot of other places have, is ban things like Styrofoam that don't, whatever the term is, degrade quickly in landfills."

It's part of a promise by the mayor to double the city's recycling rate. The less the city sends to the curb, the better it is for the budget.

"Landfills cost us a lot of money," Bloomberg said. "If we could recycle a lot of stuff, it would be much better for the environment, and better for our bottom line."

Early on in his tenure, Bloomberg suspended plastic and glass recycling to save the city cash.

The city's recycling rate never recovered. In fact, in recent years, it's been heading south.

"Recycling has been a weak spot in Mayor Bloomberg's otherwise impressive environmental and sustainability track record," said Eric Goldstein of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The back and forth, according to experts, left New Yorkers uncertain about what they can and cannot throw at the curb.

"You shouldn't have to have a PHD in garbology to be able to figure out how and where you participate in a recycling operation," Goldstein said

In his state of the city last year, Bloomberg said the city would expand recycling both on the streets and in schools.

The city is supposed to start recycling bulky plastics, like takeout containers, for the first time this summer.

And now, it may take on Styrofoam.

Many restaurant owners and opponents argue a ban would be overreaching.

"It definitely is a lot cheaper, and you definitely get a lot more for your money, and it basically keeps the food warm," said Jessica Lopez of Atomic Wings.

The timeline for expanding the city's recycling program is still a bit unclear. The mayor's office said they will be releasing concrete proposals sometime in the near future.

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