Mayor Mike Bloomberg has won over many hearts–and possibly repelled even more–with his big soda ban and other restrictions on food and beverage consumption in New York City, which has caused many to complain that he’s obsessed with other peoples’ weight and overly invested in obesity, when he should be focused on so much else. As if to prove them wrong, he brought environmental causes into the mix today at his final State of the City address. But he’s staying true to his infamous approach: Instead of proposing a better recycling program and rewarding New Yorkers for making eco-friendly choices, he wants to ban plastic-foam packaging, like styrofoam cups and takeout containers.
He called for a ban on all polysystrene products, citing recycling costs and environmental damage:
“One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never biodegrades is plastic foam,” Bloomberg said. “It’s something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without.”
People are already arguing that the ban would be problematic, because alternatives like paper cups aren’t much better for the environment (see: New York Magazine‘s ‘Your Paper Cup Is Destroying The World‘). And the mayor himself didn’t seem to worried about what the alternatives might be doing to the environment:
“We can live without it, we may live longer without it,” Bloomberg said. “Don’t worry, the doggie bag and the coffee cup will survive just fine.”
But to be fair, plastic-foam containers are one of the most harmful materials to throw in a landfill. Any disposable food container is far from an eco-friendly choice, but that doesn’t mean that using the worst of the worst is justified.
The bigger problem with the Mayor’s proposal, if you ask me, is that it doesn’t really encourage making eco-friendly choices. Plenty of cities encourage their citizens to recycle by providing public recycling containers and funding better recycling programs. Some encourage people to bring their own bags to grocery stores by requiring that people pay for plastic bags, instead of just using them freely. Restricting peoples’ ability to make bad choices can be a great way of solving problems, but especially when it comes to being more concerned about the environment, why not enable and reward people for making good decisions, instead of just slapping down yet another ban on businesses?