NYC’s Foam Ban and Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

NYC’s Foam Ban and Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

Beginning January 1, 2019 certain expanded polystyrene (EPS, popularly known as “styrofoam”) products will be banned from sale, distribution, or use in NYC. Materials covered by the ban include EPS single-service items including cups, bowls, plates, takeout containers and trays; as well as EPS loose fill “packing peanuts”. Visit for more information.

Foam Alternatives Analysis

There are many inexpensive, more sustainable alternatives to EPS foam on the market today. MSWAB Foam Alternatives Task Force took a look at food service packaging life cycle analysis studies including the recent Oregon DEQ study, consulted with NYC’s municipal recycler SIMS, and did extensive research to provide sustainable EPS foam alternatives to NYC businesses and residents.

click to watch video

click to watch video

What are the most sustainable options from a lifecycle AND end of life perspective?

From our research we learned that a few product features reduce the environmental impact of a product:

  • Recycled content

  • Relatively light in weight

  • Recyclable in your area and/or by your hauler

  • Durable, washable, reusable*

  • Post-consumer fiber content in compostable products**

*The preference is to switch to reusable food service packaging wherever possible to avoid disposal and get as many uses as possible out of the product. This significantly decreases the environmental impact of the product, because even recycling is a form of disposal (and because many recyclable materials don’t make it into the recycling bin and are instead landfilled or incinerated.)

**Compostable foodservice packaging from agricultural products (or virgin materials) has significant environmental impacts, combined with the fact that a low percentage of it is actually composted. However, some products now contain post-consumer composted fiber. These products have a lower environmental impact and are therefore preferable to compostable serviceware made with “virgin” materials.

Which disposable, recyclable products are most sustainable?

  • Aluminum products (most of which contain recycled content)

  • Rigid plastics, primarily #1, #2 and #5 recyclable plastic products containing recycled content (look for these symbols):

  • 100% recycled paper packing fill

  • Compostable products that are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, see the logo (right). Certified compostable product that contain post-consumer fiber content are preferred. Refer to Biodegradable Products Institute ( for a searchable database of certified compostable product companies.

Foam Alternative Product Suggestions

Click on the table below (or here) to reach a view-only google spreadsheet with links to the below suggestions

*These products are compostable in a commercial facility only. Check ahead with your waste hauler to make sure they can accept these products for composting before you buy them.


Residents Using Foam Alternatives

Here are some recommendations on how to use foam alternatives in NYC and reduce waste while doing so:

On the go- Bring your own reusable cup when purchasing coffee.

Eating in at a restaurant and have leftovers- Bring your own “doggie bag”- raid your kitchen cupboard BEFORE you go out to eat and bring a reusable container with you to fill with leftovers.

Having a party- Invest in a set of durable, reusable party plates, cups, bowls and utensils to reduce the amount of waste your parties generate and save money.

Ordering catering at home or work- Ask the restaurant or caterer to bring the food in durable metal, reusable catering trays.

If you have any questions, contact us by emailing We will do our best to get back to you within a few days.

Disclaimer: The information contained here is provided by waste experts on the Manhattan Solid Waste Board. Our foam alternative recommendations are included above but we recommend you do your own research as well before purchasing foam alternatives for your business or home. Please note, the foam alternative products linked above do not indicate that we support any one business over another, these are suggestions only.

Updates on the Green New Deal from the Peoples Climate Movement of NY

Greetings, PCM-NY supporters!

We have some important and exciting news to share. After a series of sobering reports on climate change the advance of -- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeFourth National Climate Assessment-- we are finally getting some excellent traction on climate policy change in New York City and State. Below is a list of actions and activities that you can plug into and share with others. Each is important, so please do jump in!

1. The breakthrough "Dirty Buildings" bill is making its way through the NY City Council. It will require landlords of the big buildings spewing 70%+ of the carbon in our city to retrofit and dramatically decrease their carbon emissions-- 80% by 2050. This is the first bill of its kind globally and is opening a whole new line of attack in slowing down climate change.  WE NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE SURE IT PASSES THE CITY COUNCIL. The real estate industry will be punching back, no doubt. Here's what you can do to support this bill that will reduce carbon, reduce heating and cooling costs and protect our health:

  • Call your City Council Member and ask her/him to co-sponsor and support the "Dirty Buildings" bill. If you want to join a team to visit your City Council Member, please email us directly: nancyromer@gmail.comwith "city council" in the subject line. This needs to be done over the next week. See "talking points" and City Council contacts documents.

  • Join the Tuesday, Dec. 4,  9 am rally followed by a public hearing on the "Dirty Buildings" bill, both at City Hall.The hearing will go on most of the day so please come whenever and for as long (or briefly) as you can. Bring signs and banners to show support.

2. NY Renews, the statewide coalition advancing the Climate and Community Protection Act, is holding Climate Justice forums across the city. They will be exciting, informative and help you further plug into this important work on the state level.

3. Divestment from Fossil Fuels is moving along well in NYC but needs your support to spread and be effective. We have two important ways for you to help spread the word and support this work on city, state and national levels:

  • Attend a webinar on divestment with a focus on The Financial and Scientific Urgency of Divestment of Union Pension Funds, Monday, Dec. 10, 8 pm ET.Invite your friends locally and from around the country to attend the webinar and consider divestment campaigns for their unions, cities and states. The webinar is co-sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America,Labor Network for Sustainability and

  • Sign a petition to support divestment from fossil fuels in NYC. While the NYC Comptroller and Mayor have announced their intention to divest and re-invest in "climate solutions"--another win for climate justice--we need to show our support for the pension trustees who have also committed to divestment but are getting pushback from some conservative forces. Please sign and forward it to your contacts.

4. Check out the Green New Deal that PCM-NY and lots of other organizationshave signed on to. It's an exciting development pushing the new Congress that will be seated in January toward addressing climate change. 

We are at a pivotal moment where there is simultaneously much more clarity on the treacherous advance of climate change and more willingness and opportunity to do something about it. We are fortunate to have strong and dedicated allies as we move forward together.

Here's to a just future!

Allen, Denise, Jeanne, Leslie, Marilyn and Nancy...for the Peoples Climate Movement NY

Apply for a Reuse and Repair Grant! (Deadline Oct 3, 2018)

Photo by  Maggie Clarke

Photo by Maggie Clarke

PRESS RELEASE: Weds. July 18th

Citizens Committee for New York City is partnering with the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board (MSWAB) and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for NYC Reuse and Repair. The goal of the grant is to support New York City in reusing, repairing, and refurbishing 100% of all discarded products that can be reused in some capacity, with the balance being recycled.

Grants of up to $2,000 will be awarded  to start new reuse or repair projects, undertake related research projects, or initiate other activities which will help lead to replicable reuse or repair models in all five boroughs of New York City.

(All of the information here can also be found on CCNYC's website here).




Proposals must be completed and submitted by 11:59pm, October 3, 2018. Eligible groups include community and neighborhood associations, individuals, non-profits, for-profit small businesses, schools, and professors, researchers, and student groups at education institutions. Groups and individuals must be located within any of the five boroughs of New York City. Read our application instructions to find out more about the expectations for the grant. Be on the lookout for an instructional video that will be available this summer!

2018 MSWAB Reuse and Repair Grant Instructions



WORD APPLICATION: Save a copy of the application to your computer. Open the document, fill in your answers, save it as a Word Document, and send it back to us. You may also print out either version of the application and hand-write your answers. If you run into trouble with any of the application formats, contact Citizens Committee.

2018 MSWAB Reuse and Repair Grant Application



Completed proposals can be sent via email to or by fax at (212) 989-0983. Proposals can also be mailed to our office. Attn: Katie Grassle, 77 Water Street, Suite 202 New York, New York 10005



Spring 2018 Community Composting Grant Fundraiser

Thanks so much to those for attending and giving to MSWAB to fund the Compost Grant Program. With your generous support in donations and ticket sales, the 2018 Compost Grant Fundraiser reached $15,000! 100% of the proceeds of the event will go towards MSWAB’s grant programs, awarded to community groups, non-profits, and private businesses to start or expand upon an existing compost and reuse and repair programs.

Thanks to all of the exhibitors, panelists, speakers, and sponsors for making this event and programs a reality!


Community in Action Challenge: Share With Others

Take the pledge!

It's one of the first things we learn as kids: how to share. But this practice usually fades as we become adults. Our houses become filled with our own “stuff.” Garages, attics, basements, and closets transform into cluttered warehouses. When we need something, whether it’s a chainsaw or a roasting rack, our first thought is to go out and buy it. But why get it new when our neighbor down the street has one we can borrow?  

Here are your options for the "Share With Others" challenge:

INDIVIDUAL Challenge: Offer to Share a Tool, Gadget, or Skill
What do you own that others in your neighborhood might love to borrow? A stand mixer? A circular saw? Do you have a skill you’re willing to share? From hemming pants to cooking the best samosas in town, we bet you know how to do something that others don’t!

GROUP Challenge: Organize a Community Swap
These days, people are getting together to swap everything from books, clothes, and toys to seeds, crops, and even soups. Community swaps are a fun and cooperative way to share and trade goods. New Dream has videos and step-by-steps to help you get started! 

EXTRA Challenge: Start a “Things” Library
Do you live in a big gardening or DIY community, or one with lots of young kids? Consider starting a tool, seed, or toy lending library. Like to bike? Start a community bike sharing program, or a project to fix up used bikes for residents in need. Wish you had access to a larger variety of kitchen gadgets? Start a kitchen library! The possibilities are endless.

2017 DSNY Waste Characterization Study

From DSNY's April 3rd, 2018 press release

What’s in the Trash?

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018


What’s in the Trash?

NYC Department of Sanitation Releases Waste Characterization Study

Study Looks at How Much Material New Yorkers “Throw Away” in Our Recycling Bins and Trash Cans

The New York City Department of Sanitation announced the release of its 2017 NYC Residential, School, and NYCHA Waste Characterization Study, the latest look at what New Yorkers put in their trash, recycling, and organics bins.

Results from the study include:

    • New Yorkers are producing less waste at home than ever before— and 68 percent of what we do throw away belongs in a curbside organics or recycling bin.
    • Organics—including food scraps, food-soiled paper, and yard waste—are the largest and still growing category of waste, representing the biggest opportunity for New Yorkers to divert waste from landfills.
    • After New York State implemented an electronic waste disposal ban, e-waste has declined by 60 percent.
    • New Yorkers are best at recycling cardboard and most often forget to recycling aluminum.
    • Cartons and aseptic boxes—including milk and juice cartons—are the most commonly misplaced recyclable items.

    See the full study here:


    Zero Waste Building Maintenance Program

    The Zero Waste Building Maintenance Training is designed to help building maintenance staff run an outstanding apartment building recycling program. Through a combination of classroom instruction, field trips and practical activities, you will develop:

    • A solid understanding of proper recycling procedures
    • Ability to distinguish between resident and building responsibilities
    • Knowledge to troubleshoot recycling issues
    • Awareness of DSNY programs available to apartment buildings
    • Skills to teach others about recycling

    Students who successfully complete the program by meeting the course requirements will receive a Zero Waste Building Maintenance Training Certificate.

    Program Requirements

    To qualify for the Zero Waste Building Maintenance Training Certificate, participants must:

    1. Attend Training Session 1 and 2.
    2. Complete 2 site visits.
    3. Demonstrate an outstanding apartment building recycling program.

    For more information and to apply, click here

    Composting Grant


    Receive up to $750

    DEADLINE March 23, 2018

    Citizens Committee for New York City, the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB), and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have partnered to offer grants to start, expand and grow composting programs in all five boroughs of New York City

    Grants of up to $750 are awarded to community groups working on neighborhood composting programs. Groups eligible for funding include community associations, community gardens, friends of park groups, housing development groups, nonprofits, schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and private businesses. Grants can be used to purchase materials to start or expand upon a composting program.


    Single Stream Recycling Presentations Recap

    On January 10th 2018, the Manhattan SWAB held a special "long" meeting, with extra seating capacity and presentations about the future of recycling in NYC. The Department of Sanitation Chief of Staff, Greg Anderson, presented on the steps that the City is taking to move our residential recycling system to one that handles glass, metal, plastic, and mixed paper products as a single stream. This differs from the status quo, where NYC's residential buildings currently separate recyclables into two streams: glass/metal/plastic, and mixed paper. 

    Greg Anderson's presentation can be found here

    Two members of the Manhattan SWAB followed Greg's presentation with their own, a dive into the research on Single Stream recycling, through the lens of experiences in other Cities in North America. 

    The MSWAB members' slides can be found here