Lawsuit to stop NYC's plastic foam container ban charges politics, not policy, behind plan

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to ban plastic foam containers such as to-go cups and meal trays was politically motivated, out of step with a New York City law and should be stopped by a state supreme court judge, according to a coalition of restaurant, manufacturing and lobbying groups that filed a lawsuit Thursday.

The ban, an environmental initiative spearheaded by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was set to take effect July 1 after a yearlong inquiry designed to study the effectiveness of recycling dirty food containers, egg shell cartons and other polystyrene materials.

The ban would make New York the largest city in the country — following San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon — to prohibit the foam containers many environmental groups say clog the nation’s landfills.

But a recycling proposal that had been considered was scrapped after a closed-door meeting at City Hall, according to court papers filed by attorney Randy Mastro.

“This determination was not made by the Sanitation Commissioner following an objective review, as local law required,” Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph Giuliani. “Rather, it was imposed on her by City Hall to further the political agenda of a Mayor who vowed as a candidate to ban foam.”

A City Hall spokeswoman declined to comment on the court papers. But city officials have said the product causes environmental harm and banning it will remove nearly 30,000 tons of waste.

Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defence Council, wrote in a blog post Thursday that his organization was “stepping in to help” the city’s legal defence.