Polystyrene Will Certainly Survive Bill de Blasio

on September 23, 2015 at 5:09 PM

PolystyreneThe New York State Supreme Court has struck down a City ban of polystyrene containers. The ban was supported by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the Court found that the City didn’t fully look into the market for recycling the “soft foam” containers instead of banning them outright.

You can get pretty deep into the weeds about whether or not these containers can be recycled. The people who make them say “Sure, easy as pie.” Environmentalists say “It’s functionally impossible.” I’m not a biodegradable polystyrene expert. I reflexively distrust manufacturers who say their products are “totally cool” with the environment because almost everything humans make screw up the environment in some way.  Show me a container that suspends my cheeseburger in an electromagnetic force field, I’ll show you a rip in the magnetosphere that is likely to kill millions of migratory birds and collapse the food chain. You’ve got to make  tough decisions about what is so useful as to be worth the environmental fallout, and I don’t know where the line is.

I do know that I’m not comfortable with the courts making these decisions. The city hired an agency to assess the feasibility of recycling these containers, the Commissioner said it wasn’t great. Mayor de Blasio made his decision. But Justice Margaret Chan wrote:

“In reaching the conclusion that there is no sustainable market for post consumer [polystyrene] in both her environmentally efficient and economic feasibility analysis, the Commissioner did not clearly state the basis of her conclusions when the evidence contrary to her findings were clearly before her,”

Look man, all you can ask politicians to do is solicit evidence and make decisions. “Feasibility” is a moving target anyway. It’s probably feasible for New York to be powered exclusively by rats attached to bicycles chasing pizza, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Could we recycle polystyrene? Probably. Could we also just ban the crap and make people eat their Chinese food out of a paper box like GENERATIONS have before? Of course that sounds more feasible. And I’d just as soon have a jackboot mayor making that decision than a judge. Mayor de Blasio isn’t taking away a personal choice (like Bloomberg tried to do so often). He’s making an executive decision about the best way for the city to manage its  New Jersey landfills.

Anyway, de Blasio’s administration will appeal. So maybe other judges will tell this judge that the mayor can run the city as he was elected to do.