Tuesday, May 22, 2018

NJ bill would ban Styrofoam school lunch containers

By Frank Brill
EnviroPolitics Editor

Legislation prohibiting the sale of food and beverages in Styrofoam food containers by public schools and public institutions of higher education was approved by the NJ Senate Environment and Energy Committee yesterday and now is in position for a floor vote.

"Banning Styrofoam containers in our public schools and colleges is a simple, common-sense step towards creating a more sustainable environment in New Jersey," said sponsor Troy Singleton (D-Burlington). "Ridding our schools of non-biodegradable products that cannot be recycled or reused teaches our students–young and old–to be more environmentally aware." 

Co-sponsor Christopher 'Kip' Bateman (R-Somerset) said the bill's goal was to curb the proliferation of a material which, when inproperly discarded, breaks down into microbeads and can be washed into sreams and ingested by fish, endangering the environment and the food chain.  

The bill, S1486, would require every public school and public institution of higher education to ensure that no food or beverage packaged or contained in a Styrofoam, also known as expanded polystyrene, food container is sold, offered for sale, or otherwise provided in the school or institution.

An "expanded polystyrene food container" is defined in the bill as a container, plate, hot or cold beverage cup, tray, carton, or other product made of expanded polystyrene and used for selling or providing a food or beverage. The prohibition would not apply to any food or beverage that was filled and sealed in an expanded polystyrene food container before a school or public institution of higher education received it.

Supporters of the bill argue that expanded polystyrene containers create high levels of waste pollution, since they are not bio-degradable and there are limited facilities that can recycle the material.

Some 70 U.S. cities and towns, including Rahway and Newark, have banned the material.

The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0. It drew support from a number of organizations, including the Audubon Society, League of Conservation Voters, School Boards Association, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, and Environment New Jersey.

Bill opponents included the NJ Business and Industry Association, the Chemistry Council of New Jersey and the American Chemistry Council.

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