HB 6502 is just the bill to recreate a stronger, healthier, fairer, viable and sustainable recovery for Connecticut. It would progressively eliminate food packaging containers to remove expanded polystyrene (EPS Foam) and address other important initiatives to reduce plastic pollution.
YES to HB 6502, because it is urgent to protect the health of our schoolchildren, all residents and our environment, will help reduce our state’s growing solid waste crisis and save taxpayers money.
EPS foam endangers public health. Polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam, better known as “polystyrene”, are plastics made of styrene and benzene, two petroleum-based chemicals. “Styrene is recognized as a known carcinogen for animals” by the National Toxicology Program and “a probable carcinogen for humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; is listed as carcinogenic under California Proposition 65.
Styrene is known to stick from aluminum EPS foam containers and school food trays to food and beverages and in turn can be ingested by humans, especially when exposed to heat, food acids or directly scraped with utensils. The developing bodies of school children are particularly susceptible to the effects of these toxins, according to Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and other health and science sources.
Cities and towns such as Norwalk, Westport, Groton and Stamford have implemented local ordinances banning EPS foam food packaging. At least 23 Connecticut school districts have gradually eliminated the use of polystyrene food trays. Many leading brands, restaurants and other states also recognize the toxicity and costs of EPS foam waste management and have successfully eliminated it. 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 did not fall.
EPS foam negatively affects municipal budgets. No Connecticut municipality offers EPS foam recycling. Polystyrene is banned from recycling programs because it is prohibited to recycle it and, after using it as a food container, it is not recyclable at all. Connecticut is facing a crisis of solid waste and recycling that is negatively affecting our municipal budgets. These materials are no longer economically or environmentally viable packaging solutions for Connecticut.
EPS foam endangers environmental health. Once in our environment, EPS foam does not biodegrade. Instead, it breaks into small pieces and eventually becomes microplastic contamination on our waterways. Small fragments of EPS foam can easily be confused with eating and eating fish and other aquatic animals. Not only is this detrimental to wildlife, but these toxins can advance down the food chain and eventually end up in our dishes. These products leave a legacy of pollution that can last for generations. The EPA ranks polystyrene manufacturing as the fifth worst industry in the world in terms of hazardous waste generation.
So why do we continue to produce and use polystyrene in 2021?
When we talk about the phasing out of plastic and polystyrene, there are those who say it will hurt businesses and cost too much money. But these materials are now costing us all: we pay the costs to clean up this waste and add it to landfills, at the expense of human health and our air and water resources.
Competitive alternatives are readily available. Many Connecticut restaurants use safer, more environmentally friendly and competitive alternatives. HB 6502 provides a generous grace period for restaurants and schools to gradually eliminate their current stock. Local CT ordinances took less than six months to implement.
WE ALL need to work together to mitigate the threat posed by disposable plastic and EPS foam to public health, affecting our airways and waterways and negatively impacting the solid waste management crisis we face. we face it as a state. The sooner our society recovers sustainably, the sooner we will see the benefits that make Connecticut an ideal place to live, work and visit.
Clean air, clean water and clean land are non-partisan issues. Ask state lawmakers to vote YES on HB 6502.
Jeanine Behr Getz of Greenwich is affiliated with BYOCT.
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