HB 6502 is just the bill to recreate a stronger, healthier, more equitable, viable and sustainable recovery for Connecticut. It would phase out expanded polystyrene (EPS foam) take-out food packaging containers and address other important plastic pollution reduction initiatives.
YES to HB 6502 as there is an urgent need to protect the health of our schoolchildren, all residents and our environment, it will help reduce the growing solid waste crisis in our state and save taxpayers money.
EPS foam threatens public health. Polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam, better known as “styrofoam,” are plastics made from styrene and benzene, two petroleum-based chemicals. “Styrene is recognized as a known animal carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program and “a probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; it is listed as a carcinogen under California Proposition 65.
Styrene is known to wash off EPS foam food packaging and school lunch trays in food and drink and, in turn, can be ingested by humans, especially when exposed to heat, acidic foods or directly scraped with utensils. The developing bodies of school children are particularly sensitive to the effects of these toxins, according to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and other health and scientific sources.
Cities like Norwalk, Westport, Groton and Stamford have implemented local ordinances banning EPS foam food containers. At least 23 Connecticut school districts have phased out the use of polystyrene meal trays. Many major brands, restaurants and other states also recognize the toxicity and waste management costs of EPS foam and have been successful in phasing it out. New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have passed laws similar to HB 6502 as well as California, Florida, and Hawaii. In 2020, Maine, Maryland, and Vermont implemented similar laws banning these materials – the sky has not fallen.
EPS foam has a negative impact on municipal budgets. No municipality in Connecticut offers EPS foam recycling. Polystyrene is banned from recycling programs because it is prohibitively expensive to recycle and, after being used as food packaging, it is not recyclable at all. Connecticut faces a solid waste and recycling crisis that is negatively impacting our municipal budgets. These materials are no longer economically or environmentally viable packaging solutions for Connecticut.
EPS foam threatens environmental health. Once in our environment, EPS foam does not biodegrade. Instead, it shatters into small pieces and ends up becoming microplastic pollution in our waterways. Tiny fragments of EPS foam are easily mistaken for food and eaten by fish and other aquatic animals. Not only is this harmful to wildlife, these toxins can travel up the food chain and end up on our plates. These products leave a legacy of pollution that can last for generations. The EPA ranks polystyrene manufacturing as the fifth largest industry in the world in terms of the creation of hazardous waste.
So why are we still producing and using polystyrene in 2021?
When we talk about phasing out plastic and polystyrene, some say it’s going to hurt businesses and cost too much. But these materials are costing us all now – we are paying the cost of cleaning up this waste and adding it to landfills – to the detriment of human health and our air and water resources.
Competitive alternatives are readily available. Safer, more environmentally friendly, and competitive alternatives are used by many Connecticut restaurants. HB 6502 provides a generous grace period for restaurants and schools to phase out their current stock. The implementation of local CT ordinances took less than six months.
We ALL need to work together to mitigate the threat that single-use plastic and EPS foam pose to public health, which is plaguing our airways and waterways and negatively impacting the crisis of solid waste management in Europe. which we face as a state. The sooner our society recovers sustainably, the sooner we will see the benefits that make Connecticut a great place to live, work and visit.
Clean air, clean water and clean land are non-partisan issues. Please ask lawmakers in your state to VOTE YES on HB 6502.
Jeanine Behr Getz of Greenwich is affiliated with BYOCT.
CTViewpoints welcomes views refuted or opposed to this and all of its comments. Read our guidelines and submit your comments here.