Don't feel too bad for Mayor Bloomberg over his loss on the big-soda ban. He's already working on another arbitrary and capricious meddling with our cups — not the size, but what they're made of. And, good for him but bad for us, he's got the support of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for his war on styrofoam.
The mayor made this ban a centerpiece of his State of the City speech last month; apparently, he sees it as one of the most pressing issues facing New Yorkers. (Yes, billionaires are different from you and me.)
Let's hope the rest of the council declines to go along with Bloomberg and Quinn. Styrofoam cups and other containers are convenient and efficient packages that keep hot food hot, cold food cold, and help keep costs down.
So many targets: A girl enjoys a doughnut and a beverage in a foam cup — two of the mayor's pet peeves.
They can learn from the large-soda debacle. A fundamental reason so many New Yorkers disliked it so strongly was that we trust ourselves to make responsible decisions — at least more than we trust City Hall to do it for us. Remember when we used to say, "Hey, it's a free country"?
Well, the same goes for using styrofoam. It might not always be the right choice, but every product has pros and cons.
Just try carrying hot soup in a paper cup. You'll need multiple cups. (Again, Mayor Moneybags may not realize that New York's famous food carts can't serve on fine china.)
And those multiple cup alternatives have environmental costs. In fact, one study found that replacing a foam cup with a single paper one could require a dozen times more water for production.
Styrofoam cups are simply more efficient — which is why so many vendors and their consumers prefer them some of the time. Maybe not at trend-conscious, high-priced Starbucks, but at bodegas and other shops that plenty of New Yorkers prefer.
What about recycling? Actually, one thing thatisfrequently recycled is the myth that styrofoam can't be recycled. It already is; smaller cities across the country have been doing it for years. New York City can find ways to do it too if it must.
Recycling styrofoam is simple. Clean it, grind it, heat it and turn it into pellets that can be used for a Bloomberg favorite, "green buildings."Recycled Styrofoam is an effective and inexpensive insulation and can be shaped into anything for a variety of uses.
Of course, getting busy New Yorkers to recycle messy food containers, whether of paper or styrofoam, is a much more difficult proposition. They'll likely wind up in the trash no matter what they're made of.
And, as any third-grader can tell you, biodegradable waste in a landfill releases methane like a cow. Better to have one crushed styrofoam container in a landfill than lots of leaky cups in your office.
An outright ban on styrofoam won't protect the environment or help the city meet recycling goals. But it will needlessly hike costs not only for restaurants, but also for schools, hospitals and prisons. Hardest hit will be all of us who sometimes enjoy the convenience of inexpensive take-out.
A complete ban on styrofoam makes the mayor's illegal soda ban look perfectly rational by comparison. Both of them should forever fester in a City Hall trash can.
Jeff Stier, a National Center for Public Policy Research senior fellow, lives on the Upper West Side.