New York has become the largest U.S. city to ban single-use Styrofoam containers after a unanimous city council vote and an expected signature from outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who openly supports the legislation. Once the law is finalized, NYC will join Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and other cities in getting rid of non-recyclable polystyrene. Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is pushing a similar ban on Styrofoam food containers in the nation’s capital.

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New Yorkers throw away 23,000 tons of polystyrene per year, with most of the Styrofoam shipping to out-of-state landfills, costing taxpayers $80 per ton. Once at the landfill, styrofoam can sit there for hundreds of years because it is virtually impossible to biodegrade. It can also break up into small pieces and be swept away by the wind where the pieces end up in the ocean or local waterways where they contribute to giant floating trash collections such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“This is a tremendous decision, and grand victory for us all. Future generations will see this as the obvious choice,” said Christopher Chin, Executive Director of the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education. Chin said the vote “makes a strong stand and proves that New York is truly ready to make a difference.”

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year.

The ban will take effect in a year unless industry can find a way to make styrofoam recyclable, which is highly unlikely.

“Once the ban takes effect, it will be much easier and more economical to collect and separate recyclables,” Bloomberg said.

Via TreeHugger

Lead image via Ellie