H.B. 6502 is just the bill to recreate a stronger, healthier, more equitable, viable, and sustainable recovery for Connecticut. It would phase out expanded polystyrene take-out food packaging containers (EPS Foam) and address other important plastic pollution reduction initiatives.

YES to H.B. 6502 because it is urgently needed to protect the health of our school children, all residents and our environment, it will help reduce our State’s growing solid waste crisis 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 carcinogen to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; it is listed as a carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.

Styrene is known to leach from EPS foam food packaging and school meal trays into food and drinks 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 susceptible to the effects of these toxins, according to Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and other health and science sources.

Cities and towns 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 leading brands, restaurants and other States also recognize the toxicity and costs of managing waste of EPS foam and have successfully phased it out. New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have passed similar laws to H.B. 6502 as well as have California, Florida, and Hawaii. In 2020 Maine, Maryland, and Vermont implemented similar laws banning these materials — the sky did not fall.

EPS foam negatively impacts municipal budgets. No municipalities in Connecticut offer recycling for EPS foam. Polystyrene is banned from recycling programs because it is prohibitively expensive to recycle and, after being used as food packaging, is not recyclable at all. Connecticut is facing 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 doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it breaks into small pieces and eventually becomes microplastic pollution in our waterways. Tiny fragments of EPS foam are easily mistaken for food and eaten by fish and other aquatic wildlife. Not only is this harmful to wildlife, but these toxins can work their way up the food chain, ultimately ending up on our dinner plates. These products leave a legacy of pollution that can last for generations. The EPA ranks polystyrene manufacturing as the fifth-worst global industry in terms of hazardous waste creation.

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 the businesses and it’s going to cost too much money. But these materials are costing all of us now– we pay the cost to clean up this waste and have it added to landfills — at the expense of human health and our air and water resources.

Competitive alternatives are readily available. Safer, environmentally friendlier, and cost-competitive alternatives are in use by many restaurants in Connecticut. H.B. 6502 provides a generous grace period for restaurants and schools to phase out their current stock. Local CT ordinances took less than six months to implement.

We ALL must work together to mitigate the threat that single-use plastic and EPS foam present to public health, plaguing our air and waterways and negatively impacting the solid waste management crisis 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 your state legislators to VOTE YES on H.B. 6502.

 Jeanine Behr Getz of Greenwich is affiliated with BYOCT.

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