The three laws to reduce the amount of plastic and other non-biodegradable packaging across the county will take effect in 2020.
By Priscila Korb, Patch Staff
April 10, 2019
SUFFOLK COUNTY, NY – Suffolk officials voted to approve three proposed bills to reduce the amount of plastic and other non-biodegradable packaging across the county on Tuesday.
The new laws include:
- prohibiting eateries from offering cups, containers, trays and other disposable items made of polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam
- banning retail stores from selling these products and Styrofoam based packing materials to consumers
- requiring food establishments to provide biodegradable straws and stirrers by request only while disallowing plastic ones
- prohibiting the county’s park concessionaires from distributing single-use cups, utensils or beverage straws made from non-biodegradable substances.
These changes affecting food establishments and retailers will begin January 1, 2020 to allow businesses time to adjust inventory. [See link below for Food Service Resource]
The bills also make accommodations for people with disabilities whose medical conditions make it necessary for them to use of plastic straws while the polystyrene ban exempts items used to store uncooked eggs, raw meat, pork, fish, seafood and poultry.
The proposals were sponsored by Legis. Kara Hahn, who is part of Suffolk County’s Single-Use Plastic Reduction Task Force as well as chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee.
“The scale of the worldwide single-use plastics problem has become an ever-increasing threat to our environment and everything that relies on it, including human health,” Hahn said. “The plastics crisis is more urgent than people realize, and today, we as a County have taken action to address the challenges posed by these dangerous pollutants. It is my hope that our action will spur other leaders to take a bold stand against expediency in favor of sustainability.”
According to the not-for-profit Ocean Conservancy, every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.
As a result, ingested plastic has been found in more than 60 percent of all seabirds and in 100 percent of sea turtles species.
This isn’t the county’s first attempt to improve our environment by banning these plastics.
In 1988, officials hoped to ban Styrofoam use by supermarkets and fast-food restaurants to protect air quality and groundwater from the “hazards and toxicity” associated with their disposal.
That policy was reversed a year later due to a procedural issue.
Then in 2013, Hahn had introduced a polystyrene ban that did not pass the legislature.
“It’s been 30 years since Suffolk first sounded the alarm on the dangers of single-use plastic,” Hahn said. “During those three decades, not a single piece of plastic has biodegraded. We must reduce use now or suffer the consequences for generations to come.”