A bill that prohibits a restaurant or caterer from providing or distributing single-use containers made of expanded polystyrene to consumers beginning July 1, 2021 passed the Connecticut House with bipartisan support late last month.
“We have been hearing a long time about the health risks styrofoam has to both humans and animals,” said Rep. Mike Demicco, D-Farmington, who co-chairs the Environment Committee where the bill originated. “Single-use styrofoam containers can wind up in waterways and have a detrimental effect on fish and birds and others who ingest it,” Demicco said. “It’s legislation whose time has come. It’s the right thing to do.”
Demicco said the original bill was “much more broad-based” but negotiations limited the styrofoam ban to only restaurants and caterers — and gave those entities 24 months to prepare for the change.
Rep. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, said he would support the bill, primarily because it is much more limited than the original proposal. But, he added, “I do have concerns,” about what the costs of switching from styrofoam would mean to “mom and pop restaurants and delis. I do think the environmental aspect supersedes those concerns, but they are warranted,” he said.
Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, who owns and operates several restaurants in Fairfield County, said that while he supports the bill, he doesn’t know if its totally necessary. Rutigliano said he stopped using styrofoam products — at a hefty cost — in his restaurants a year ago “because my customers demanded it and we thought it was the right thing to do.” “Restaurants and other food service facilities are adapting themselves to the ever-changing needs of our customers,” Rutigliano said.
The lengthy two-year period to comply was intentional, said Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, “to give restaurants time to adapt.” Lawmakers cited the timetable adopted by two of the state’s larger operators: Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds. Several proponents made mention of the fact that Dunkin’ has pledged to replace all of its polystyrene foam cups with sustainably-sourced, double-walled paper cups by 2020. It’s been 28 years since McDonald’s got rid of polystyrene packages for its burgers and sandwiches. Late last year, it eliminated all foam packaging.
Those opposed to the bill say they are primarily concerned about the additional cost of replacement products. But to that concern, House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said that as more and more businesses switch to alternative products, the market will hopefully adjust, and prices for such products will subsequently drop. The bill, which passed by a vote of 121-to-23, now moves to the Senate.
Under the legislation, an owner or operator who violates the prohibition is subject to a fine of $250 for a first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 for any subsequent violation. A local health department or district or the departments of Consumer Protection (DCP), Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), or Public Health (DPH) may enforce the bill’s prohibition.