Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the final State of the City speech of his 12 years in elected office while announcing multiple new policy initiatives, including a ban on Styrofoam in stores and restaurants. Not everyone was thrilled with this new ban, however, including a Staten Island man who called into Mr. Bloomberg’s weekly radio show this morning declaring, “I’m very upset with you, you’re on a track to ban everything.”
“Come on,” Mr. Bloomberg shot back. “We’re not banning everything!”
He then ticked off his various controversial public health initiatives while explaining why they didn’t constitute a “ban.”
“You can still buy cigarettes, we haven’t banned that!” Mr. Bloomberg exclaimed. “You can still buy 32 or 64 ounces of full-sugared beverage, you just have to take … 16-ounce cups if it’s in a restaurant or a theater. In smoking, you can’t smoke where other people have to breathe the smoke, but you can still do that. In the case of Styrofoam, … Styrofoam is a brand name, it’s really polystyrene that you’re banning. An awful lot of places on the West Coast have already banned it. Here in New York City, it costs us an extra 20 bucks a ton to take it out of these recycling things.”
Mr. Bloomberg proceeded to cite the caller’s home borough and its infamous Fresh Kills Landfill to highlight the need for smarter recycling policies.
“We never should have used Staten Island as a big dump,” the mayor argued. “We’re not going back to do it. But we’ve got to be smarter the next time and not create these things. Styrofoam, or polystyrene, does not degrade with time. It’s just there forever and it’s not good for you and it costs us a lot of money. The stores–most stores–have already gone away from it. This is not asking anybody to do anything that’s really going to hurt anybody. But it’s good for everybody. So we’re not banning everything! We’re just trying to do some intelligent things. It costs us money. … Your tax bill is higher than it needs to be because we’ve got to go and take polystyrene out of the waste. So, you know, it’s in your interests too.”
Update (2/18/13 5:15 p.m.): A reader pointed out that this might be a bit of a flip-flop for Mr. Bloomberg, who previously weighed in on the topic of banning everything a few years ago:
“When it was noted that it is illegal to ride Segways on NYC streets and sidewalks. Bloomberg said: ‘I think we banned them. We ban everything.'”