New York State Bans Packing Peanuts and EPS Loose Fill

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

For over 10 years now, Uncle Marty’s has been your local resource to bring clean, dry, used packing peanuts and other packing material to for reuse. We have kept sustainability as part of our mission statement and done our best to reuse any material we can–to give it at least one more go-around before ending up in the landfill. Because of these programs, we purchase and consume very little new foam and plastic-based packaging at our location–a fractional amount compared to what is traditionally used by retail shipping businesses.

Last week, without warning, we learned that New York State will be banning all EPS (expanded polystyrene) loose fill, including packing peanuts. We had heard nothing about this prior to a guest mentioning it to us in passing, with no outreach in advance from the state. We reached out to other members of the Association of Mail & Business Centers (AMBC), for which Marty volunteers as Director of Communication, and this ban has come as a total surprise to most businesses operating in the retail shipping space in New York State.

We have reached out to New York State and asked for clarification and the state has told us that this applies to both new and used EPS loose fill, and that we must cease our reuse program as of January 1st. There is no grace period to use it up, and there was no advance warning for us to prepare, yet we are resolved to comply and have removed all EPS loose fill from our store and will no longer sell or distribute it–new or used.

For years now, we have also taken large pieces of chunk EPS (like foam coolers and electronics packing) to break down using a special machine we’ve built. This machine has a hot wire grid that cuts down what traditionally was single-use EPS pieces and makes smaller roughly one-inch cube pieces that can be reused. We call the stuff we make “ReFill,” as it acts like loose fill (packing peanuts), but is made from repurposed material and can be used over and over again.

This program has been very successful in our green-minded community, and we have broken down thousands of pieces of larger single-use EPS that would have otherwise gone directly into the landfill. You, our friends and neighbors, have rallied behind this and the Ithaca community has shared it and supported it wholeheartedly. We have explained this program to the state, but they have declined to allow us to continue it under the ban.

We want to be very clear to our community that, as we always have, we strongly support the reduction of single-use EPS. This is why reuse programs have been so successful! Though we can no longer accept EPS materials, we will still be glad to accept and reuse other clean, dry packing material, including biodegradable (non-EPS) peanuts, paper, air pillows, and bubblepack.

Thank you for your understanding, and for your amazing support over the years with our reuse programs.

With care,
Marty

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