A bill that would ban restaurant use of foam takeout containers, plastic straws and beverage stirrers, is being shopped around for co-sponsors in Dover.
It’s the second time that Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, has moved to ban the containers and straws. A similar bill introduced in 2021 passed the Senate but didn’t make it to the House floor.
The bill would also ban cocktail picks and sandwich picks made of plastic, and would be implemented beginning July 1, 2025, if signed into law.
It does, however, allow customers to request a straw and exempts straws attached to an item such as a juice box and straws being used in a hospital or long-term care facility.
Efforts were unsuccessful to reach Paradee for comment.
The Delaware Restaurant Association isn’t thrilled. Again.
“We oppose the bill because we believe in a voluntary approach to any business decision within the restaurant,” said association President Carrie Leishman. “More and more businesses are moving away for alternative packaging.”
Many restaurants are phasing out less environmentally friendly packages, she said.
“The majority of our restaurants have already phased out this type of packaging. Many of them did it as their carry-out business increased and their customer base asked for it,” she said.
Smaller ethnic restaurants, many of which continue to use foam containers, are still struggling, she said.
Foam cited as litter
“We can’t leave out one segment of the industry,” she said.
Leishman says it is too soon since the worst days of the pandemic to force businesses not use plastic packaging.
She said inflation and supply chain issues need to settle down before forcing changes.
“I just think we need to get through a year or two to see where the industry and inflation are,” Leishman said. “We just need to wait longer.”
If the bill were to pass, Delaware would join Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. in banning plastic foam, which the bill calls polystyrene foam food service packaging.
The bill says that discarded single-service plastic items and polystyrene packaging from food, beverages, and other products constitute a significant and growing portion of litter found in Delaware’s parks, beaches, streets, and other public spaces.
They are typically discarded by consumers and are not recyclable, the bill says.
It would allow the use of those plastic products in pre-packaged food and by health-care providers, fire companies and nonprofit organizations.
Leishman said those exemptions make the bill more political than environmental.
“They are requiring one segment of the food service industry to not use certain types of packaging, but they’re allowing fire halls and non profits … who do so much carry out and food service in their businesses, to continue to use it,” she said.
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