The future of plastic-foam food containers in takeout-loving New York City is up for debate.

The City Council's sanitation committee began holding a hearing Monday on proposals to ban the containers or explore recycling them.

Street vendors and eateries prize lightweight, heat-keeping plastic foam cups, plates and to-go cartons. But they take a long time to break down in landfills.

San Francisco and several other cities have banned such containers.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested doing the same in the nation's biggest city. New Yorkers throw out about 23,000 tons of foam per year.

Restaurateurs say alternatives to plastic foam are more expensive and less effective at insulating food.

Business groups and backers of the foam ban disagree on the feasibility of recycling the material.