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Buffalo could ban Styrofoam despite businesses pushing back

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People dining at City of Buffalo restaurants or public facilities could soon no longer see Styrofoam cups or containers if a resolution discussed at Tuesday’s Buffalo Common Council meeting moves forward.

Council President Darius Pridgen said he first had the idea of bringing it to Western New York after hearing local groups discuss the recent ban of foam plastic in New York City. 

“You know where you can see it? In our lakes, in our neighborhoods. Because they are not biodegradable,” he said. “So yes, you do have a lot of it leftover.”

According to the Council’s resolution, foam plastic makes up about 30 percent of the waste that ends up in landfills across the country. 

But while banning Styrofoam may help the environment, some area restaurants could face a problem without it.

“For us, it’s a big part of our business,” said Wiechec’s bartender, Matthew Klopfer. “We do a lot of take-out; it’s an intricate part of our business. And not only that, when people eat here they say our fish fry is so large, a lot of people take take-out boxes, which happen to be Styrofoam.”

Klopfer said he understands the environmental impact plastic foam has, which is why he would be open to using alternatives for the restaurant’s take-out containers. But without knowing what that cost could be, he said if it’s higher than what is paid for Styrofoam, it could ultimately fall back on Wiechec’s customers.

“My initial thoughts were show me the alternatives and show me the cost difference,” Klopfer said. “Because really when it comes down to it, that’s what businesses have to look at. You have to look at cost efficiency, you have to look at if you have to put that burden of cost back onto the consumer and then your stuff is going to be more expensive. And I hate saying stuff like that, but as a business you have to look at your bottom line too.”

Pridgen said Tuesday’s resolution was just the start of exploring the idea of a ban.

“I didn’t want to simply write a law without hearing from people how it will affect business, how it will affect our environment, how it will affect our county even,” Pridgen said. “And so our ears are open to hear.”

The Council is holding a further discussion on the potential ban next Tuesday at a Community Development meeting. The public is invited to attend to voice their opinion on the subject.

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