Virginia moves nearer to ban plastic foam containers

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For the next year in a row, a bill that prohibits food suppliers from using plastic foam containers is up in the air as the overall Assembly hashes out a Senate amendment.

Del. Betsy B. Carr, D-Richmond, introduced House Bill 1902 this season after her costs passed this past year with a reenactment clause, which means it must pass 2 yrs in a row.

The Senate passed the legislation Fri in a 21-15 vote. The passage was included with an amendment proposed by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, that could not exempt nonprofits, point out and local government entities and academic institutions from the ban.

“Why are we likely to say styrofoam is poor if it’s employed by a tiny business, but it’s ok if it’s used by a college division,” Petersen said during Friday’s session.

The House rejected the amendment and the Senate voted unanimously to insist on its amendment. There is a meeting committee scheduled to work through the legislative differences.

The measure prohibits food vendors such as for example restaurants, food trucks and grocery stores from packaging prepared foods in polystyrene containers. The prohibition won't expand to packaging for unprepared food, including coolers used in foodstuff shipments or unprepared foodstuff packages, such as raw or uncooked meats, fish or eggs.

Retail foodstuff establishments with 20 or more locations must phase out plastic material foam containers by July 2023. Other food suppliers must stop applying these kinds of takeout containers by July 2025.

The bill is a continuation of Virginia’s lawmakers’ sweeping effort to pass environmental legislation, but the COVID-19 pandemic has opened a discussion on the usefulness of single-use disposable packaging such as polystyrene to limit contamination and facilitate a shift to carry-out business.

The Virginia Cafe, Lodging & Travel Association, an organization for restaurants and other hospitality industries, opposes the ban.

Robert Melvin, director of government affairs in the association, said the expenses is “misguided” and can hurt smaller, local eating places financially, whose businesses took a good toll amid the pandemic.

“I don’t know why we'd even entertain the idea of going and banning a thing that helps prevent the spread of disease when we’re fighting a people well being epidemic,” Melvin said.

Polystyrene container alternatives can cost only one penny a bit, said Elly Boehmer, state director of Environment Virginia, an advocacy affiliate of Environment America. Alternatives range from paper-lined containers or biodegradable items made of molded fiber or bagasse, a pulpy byproduct from sugarcane.

“The even more that restaurants start adopting this, the even more options you will have and the smaller the price will become,” Boehmer said. “So at this time, that’s the circumstance where we are able to find excellent cost alternative sustainable goods.”

Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and is difficult to recycle, according to Environment Virginia. Boehmer explained polystyrene when flattened and shredded can resemble paper, which creates concerns in recycling plants.

“It can also effect and contaminate our paper recycling and stuff that we actually can recycle,” Boehmer said.

Polystyrene can take 500 years to biodegrade and some items never do, making their way to riverways and oceans, according to Environment Virginia.

Expanded polystyrene foam can certainly breakdown into microparticles, which is certainly harmful to the environment and wildlife and harmful to individual health, Boehmer explained. Polystyrene contains styrene, regarded as toxic and likely carcinogenic, relating to a report published in 2018.

“The toxic chemicals from it can leach into food and drink and then be ingested. And this is especially of an issue when the containers will be hot,” Boehmer said. “When you receive your espresso, that’s when you’re much more likely to get a large amount of the toxic chemical substances out of this product.”

Melvin said the swap to non-polystyrene containers will get up restaurants’ costs over time.

“That adds up quickly,” he said, “especially when you’re coping with many food containers.”

Food vendors could be granted a good one-year exemption from the ban if they demonstrate “undue economic hardship,” including the inability to cover polystyrene container alternatives, in line with the bill. Vendors could be granted additional exemptions if indeed they can prove continuing hardship.

Instead of a polystyrene ban, Melvin said there must be more studies in the recyclability of polystyrene, such as for example advanced recycling.

Advanced recycling, also known as chemical recycling, refers to chemical processes that convert plastics into their classic building blocks, for future years expansion of new plastic material products.

Senate Costs 1164, sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R-Augusta, seeks to define chemical recycling as a production industry rather than a good waste industry. The expenses can be nearing its third studying in the House after moving the Senate with solid support.

A House bill redefining chemical recycling died after Del. Kenneth R. Plum, D-Reston, requested his expenses end up being stricken from a committee docket.

Opponents of Carr’s costs spoke against the polystyrene container prohibition in a Senate subcommittee assembly. They explained recycling polystyrene is normally economically feasible and has been done in the united states. There are plans to build a chemical recycling facility in Cumberland County.

While polystyrene could be processed by chemical substance recycling, some environmental advocacy teams are wary of the practice. A written report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, an organization that works to find waste and pollution solutions, concluded chemical substance recycling will worsen the plastic material waste products crisis and that municipality should give attention to reducing plastic pollution by transitioning to zero waste materials systems.

Carr said her expenses is linked with SB 1164, which she said has overwhelming Senate support. Even so, she said chemical substance recycling and a polystyrene prohibition can coexist in the commonwealth.

“It is not incompatible with any recycling making work,” Carr said. “There’s adequate time for our eating places to accommodate, with plenty of products that are available and affordable.”