Restaurant industry predicts supply issues, price increases over NY’s foam food container ban

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New Year’s Day is when new laws typically go into effect, and one law that’s set to begin here in New York is the banning of foam food containers. News10NBC talked to the owner of one restaurant who is struggling to stay afloat.

For customers, switching from a foam container to a more eco-friendly container may not be all that different, but the same can’t be said for some restaurant owners who say this will affect their bottom line.

El Latino Restaurant is one of many restaurants that offer authentic Hispanic food here in the City of Rochester. Owner Ramon Tony Medina said he’s all for change, but he’s not happy about the upcoming ban on foam food containers which goes into effect on New Year’s Day.

"They haven’t given us enough time, and this is horrible timing because of the pandemic," Medina said.

He’s been using foam containers for as long as his restaurant has been open. Foam containers better suit the food featured on his menu: Food that contains lots of gravy, and sauces. Now he must put all to-go orders in more eco-friendly containers that not only cost him three times as much to purchase but present other challenges with hot food.

"We also have some problems with some containers that we can’t use because they have a coating of wax. So we can’t use those either because the wax will melt," Medina said.

We asked Medina what will happen on Jan. 1.

He said, "We probably gonna close of a week or two and see what happens."

David Scalen owns and operates Regional Distributors Incorporated based in Rochester. His company sells foam packaging products to thousands of companies all over Western New York. He has an idea what will happen when the ban goes into effect, especially at restaurants.

"I think you’re going to see prices rise. I mean the only way the restaurants can really keep up and stay in business I to raise their prices to their end users," Scalen said.

Also adding to the problem, the lack of available alternative food packaging that’s also been affected by supply chain issues.

Lance Boyington, Director of Purchasing for Regional Distributors said, "You know the containers used to take two, or three months to land to our dock. Now we’re looking at six to eight months. Just kind of planning for that lead time has been troubling."

Companies like Regional Distributors can sell leftover foam products back to the manufacturer which can then be sold to states that still allow the use of these products.