Amended polystyrene ban bill passes House

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines


House passes bill that bans the use of polystyrene, like Styrofoam, in restaurants.
Photo by Julio Lopez, Unsplash.

A bill banning the use of polystyrene containers, including Styrofoam, passed the House and will head back to the Senate after three amendments were passed with it.

Senate Bill 51, sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, would ban the use of polystyrene containers in restaurants, fire companies, and nonprofit organizations, along with single use plastic straws, and beverage, cocktail picks and sandwich picks made of plastic.

The bill would take effect July 1, 2025.

While the bill had previously allowed fire companies and nonprofit organizations to continue to use polystyrene containers, an amendment from Rep. Michael Smith, R-Pike Creek, removed those exemptions.

An amendment by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, changed one of the exemptions for polystyrene containers, which previously applied to health care providers, to now apply to just food given to a patient or resident by a healthcare provider.

Baumbach said the amendment removes the exemption for places such as cafeterias in hospitals.

Another amendment, also by Baumbach, makes sure a restaurant wouldn’t lose its license for not following the polystyrene ban by changing the violation from a critical one to a core one. 

The bill also requires the Delaware Solid Waste Authority to put out a report at the end of 2023  detailing possible substitutes for polystyrene containers and how the state can remove polystyrene containers from Delaware landfills.

Previously, those involved in the restaurant and plastics industry have said the bill would be costly because of the price of alternatives to polystyrene and that those containers don’t take up a large percentage of waste in landfills by weight.

Baumbach previously has countered by saying that polystyrene doesn’t make up a majority of the weight in landfills, but does take up a large portion by volume.

Polystyrene is also very difficult to recycle. Of the 5,200 tons in Delaware landfills in 2018, 16 tons were recycled, leading to a 0% recovery rate, according to the Delaware Solid Waste Authority.

That compares to a 23% recovery rate for aluminum cans, a 31% recovery rate for plastic bottles and a 59% recovery rate for pallets.

There is no fiscal note required for the bill, which has 27 additional sponsors and cosponsors, 26 Democrats and one Republican, Smith.

The bill previously had passed the Senate 14 to 5 in April, but now will head back to the Senate, which must approve the changes made by the three amendments.

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