A priority for Plastic Free Delaware and more than four years in the works, Senate Bill 51 (as amended) finally won approval of both Chambers of the state legislature and was signed by Governor Carney.
Led by dogged prime sponsors, Senator Trey Paradee and Representative Paul Baumbach, and joined by Representative Sophie Phillips, SB51 bans expanded polystyrene foam and plastic picks, as well as making plastic straws available only upon request, in Delaware dining establishments. The effective date is July 1, 2025 giving restaurants plenty of time to make the shift.
Delaware joins neighboring states and large cities, and many more local governments including Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, D.C., Vermont, Colorado, and NYC who already have similar laws in place - the eleventh state to do so.
In addition to the many individuals who reached out to state legislators asking for support on SB51, Plastic Free Delaware would like to thank its coalition partners: Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Delaware Nature Society, Oceana, League of Women Voters of Delaware, Surfrider Foundation Delaware Chapter, MERR Institute, Delaware-Surf-Fishing.com, Delaware Interfaith Power & Light, Aquarium Divers for Coral Restoration, and the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays - all of whom helped make passage of this legislation possible.
More information on the concerns about EPS are available below.
Expanded Polystyrene is some particularly nasty stuff. It's a foam plastic made from toxic petrochemicals including benzene. It is not biodegradable nor compostable. Instead, it crumbles or photodegrades, breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic microplastic pieces, making it impossible to fully clean up once it is thrown away and escapes into our environment, and allowing it to easily migrate into our food chain and water supplies.
Polystyrene Foam is not accepted in curbside recycling. It's already banned in several other states including neighboring Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and D.C. because it's so harmful to our health and our environment.
Expanded Polystyrene foam is a human health & environmental justice issue. During the manufacturing process, workers exposed to styrene monomers have an increased risk of lymphoma, leukemia, and other forms of cancer. The industry ranks as the 5th largest creator of toxic wastes in the USA and these risks are especially prevalent in fenceline communities.
Expanded Polystyrene foam contributes to climate change. Single use plastic is derived from fossil fuel extraction and refining processes of oil and natural gas.
Polystyrene foam also makes its way into our storm drains and our waterways. It pollutes our environment, harms animals, and increases cleanup costs. Once in the water it will absorb 10 times more pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals than other kinds of plastic, increasing toxin exposure to fish and other aquatic animals and on up the food chain.
Safer and more sustainable alternatives are readily available. It’s time to get polystyrene foam out of Delaware once and for all.
Gratefully excerpted from Jan Dell, The Last Beach Cleanup
US Regulatory: Californians Against Waste (CAW) website summarizes harms of polystyrene and local bans. NCEL website has a map of proposed US plastics-related legislation including polystyrene. New York City Sanitation Department Determination for Recyclability of Food-Service Foam is a superb reference (link here).
Global News: Updated Survey Global EPS Foam Container Laws
Fast Food Companies: Updated Survey of use of EPS Foam – Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Global Fast Food Plastic Survey.
US Colleges: Updated Survey of use of EPS Foam – The Last Beach Cleanup’s U.S. College Plastic Survey.
EPS Foam Container Harms:
Headlines Promoting False Facts, Solutions & Confusion:
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