Environmental Initiatives

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Eliminating Procurement of Polystyrene Products

For many years, goods made of polystyrene foam dominated consumer markets for cost-efficient, single-use products.

(In North America, people commonly refer to polystyrene as Styrofoam, though this is technically incorrect. Styrofoam is simply one brand of polystyrene whose name fell into generic use.)

Disposable coffee cups and packaging peanuts are perhaps the most common examples of polystyrene products. Other examples include disposable bowls, ice coolers, packing materials, and carryout clamshell containers.

The problem with polystyrene is that it takes about 500 years to decompose, and no feasible technologies exist to recycle it. These two factors pose major challenges to best practices in environmental sustainability. They are the primary reasons why a new mandate from New York City government bans the use of polystyrene products beginning on July 1, 2015 – and so too has The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In early 2015, in anticipation of the July 1st ban, the Port Authority’s Office of Environmental and Energy Programs (OEEP) began working with Port Authority warehouse and cafeteria staff to phase out the procurement of single-use polystyrene products and transition to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

"Continued procurement of these products would conflict with our agency's commitment to environmental stewardship," said Bernice Malione, Assistant Director, OEEP. "So we acted. By the summer of 2015, the Port Authority will no longer procure any polystyrene products. This very simple, but powerful step supports the agency’s Sustainability Policy goal of reducing waste."


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