Plastics and polystyrene voted out

Polystyrene containers, plastic straws, polystyrene “peanuts” used by county vendors for packaging, as well as single-use utensils, plates and cups at county parks got the boot by Suffolk County legislators Tuesday afternoon.

Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) sponsored the four bills restricting their use, which passed 17-0.

Retail stores would also be banned from selling these products and polystyrene foam to consumers. Food establishments would have to provide biodegradable straws and stirrers by request, disallowing plastic ones.

County executive Steve Bellone would have to sign off on the bills for them to go into effect. If he does, the date for banning polystyrene and peanut use would start in January. The date to restrict single-use plastics at county parks along with utensils, plates and cups would start when the park vendor’s contract is up.

Hahn was hopeful that Bellone would sign the bills. “It would go into effect January 2020,” she said. “The businesses have stock right now and it doesn’t do anyone any good if you have 5,000 plastic straws. We don’t want you to throw them away. They’ll hopefully be smart enough to use the ones they have and start ordering the biodegradable options.”

The county joins the groundswell that began with East Hampton and Southampton villages and towns, as well as Patchogue Village.

“I am proud to support Legis. Hahn’s bill to ban polystyrene products,” stated deputy presiding officer Rob Calarco. “The Village of Patchogue banned Styrofoam takeout containers last year and I am happy that Suffolk County has now done the same. The foam containers do not biodegrade, the chemicals leach into the hot food, and they can’t be recycled. This is a positive step for Suffolk County and, even more important, a positive step for the environment.”

Hahn said the bills passed were a result of the Single-Use Task Force; a fifth bill passed previously that would provide water bottle refill stations in county parks and buildings.

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