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"You can't put a price tag on the environment." Should Buffalo ban styrofoam takeout containers?

Posted at 3:47 PM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 17:42:23-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Would you pay an extra few cents to bring home some chicken and waffles from your favorite Buffalo joint?

Common council president Darius Pridgen wants to know.

He plans to propose a resolution to have a listening session with the public on your thoughts.

Local environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club Niagara say we need to get on board with other major cities and ditch the dish.

"It's popular in the restaurant industry cause it's lightweight and holds the heat of the product going into it, said John Szalasny, who runs the "Bring NYC's styrofoam ban to
my hometown" Facebook page. "The problem is, the dangers of styrofoam... the leaching of the chemicals that are created when the styrofoam (is) heated."

A lot of local restaurants say they would be on Freddy J's on Grant Street.

"I think its a great idea," said owner Fred Daniel. "I think it's about time for the environment that we all start taking steps towards that."

At the beginning of the year New York City put a ban on EPS foam for single-service cups, plates, trays, and clamshell containers.

Here at home, the material is not recycled in any of the communities in Erie County...putting a strain on landfills.

"Even though it doesnt weigh a lot, it makes up about 25-35% of our waste stream," said Szalasny.

We spoke with a representative from Chudy Paper Company which manufacturers plastic and paper containers in Cheektowaga.

Reps say it is a minimum of 25-50% an increase in cost compared to styrofoam containers because of the availability of products and the cost to manufacturer the paper alternatives.

Restaurants would have to make that up in some way, likely with a small increase in prices.

"If someone isn't willing to do this that tells me that someone is chasing money," said Daniels. "In this business we are here to serve the people, and put the best quality out. If not using (styrofoam) is in-tune with putting the best quality out - lets go for it. We'll make up the money on the other end, you know?"

Council president Darius Pridgen says he wants to be clear this is just a listening session, no legislation has been put forth yet.

"I want to hear from everybody: those in the restaurant industry, everyday citizens, those who may not have a business... but are concerned about it, or those who want it to stay."

Pridgen says often with these conversations people are able to propose alternative solutions.

"These conversations often bring about innovation," said Pridgen. "I would love to see one of our local campuses tackle this and say 'how do you do this?' and maybe lessen the footprint left by these items if you can't eliminate it."

That session will be held Tuesday, March 26 in the Community Development Committee meeting at 2 p.m. in City Hall.