In 1988, Suffolk County passed the nation’s first law banning polystyrene “Styrofoam” food packaging due to its threat to the environment, paving the way for other jurisdictions across the country to do the same. Today, at both a Town and County level, Suffolk County is once again leading the way on environmental issues with regard to plastic bags, plastic foam containers, and plastic straws – and these new laws just may help drive up business in the bargain.
Similar to legislation recently passed in Patchogue Village and the Village of East Hampton banning foam food packaging, the Town of Southampton recently passed Town Board Resolution 2019-203 requiring restaurants and food service establishments in the Town to transition from plastic (including straws and stirrers) and Styrofoam products to biodegradable alternatives. This law will go into effect on May 8, 2019 to give businesses time to use up their old stock and make the transition to alternatives which can include cardboard, stainless steel, renewable corn, or bamboo products.
Under the law, restaurants will be permitted to keep a small number of plastic straws on hand for those with physical disabilities who require them, but straws will not be distributed automatically. All other customers who ask for a straw will be given a biodegradable one.
The law applies to all food service establishments and beverage providers, including restaurants, delis, bakeries, bars/taverns, fast food restaurants, take-out, and ice cream stores. Failure to comply can result in a fine up to $1,000, or imprisonment for a term of 15 days or less, or a combination of these.
Similar legislation is also being debated at the county level. Bills introduced in the Suffolk County Legislature in February 2019 aim to reduce plastic litter by eliminating plastic straws and Styrofoam containers, plates, and cups in restaurants throughout the county. This legislation follows the plastic bag fee that went into effect in Suffolk County last year – and which has resulted in an 80 percent decline in the number of single-use plastic bags distributed in the county over the past year, according to estimates.
Food service providers may understandably be concerned about adding yet another to-do item to their never-ending list, but savvy business owners should not view this ban as a burden, but as a potential boon to business. (Indeed, according to 27east.com, the Town’s Sustainability Committee surveyed 80 of the approximately 240 restaurants in the Town, and between 90 and 95 percent agreed that banning straws and Styrofoam containers “was a move in the right direction.”) (Read the full article here.)
By demonstrating an understanding of local environmental and health concerns, Long Island food and beverage service establishments will provide new incentives for existing and potential customers to frequent their stores and restaurants and will be making a change in our world for the better. Many of today’s consumers, particularly millennials, are concerned for the environment and would be more inclined to dine at an environmentally friendly establishment.
Furthermore, Baby Boomers and older generations still remember when restaurants used cardboard takeout boxes and paper straws before the widespread use of plastic, and thus wouldn’t find an adjustment back to this material difficult or inconvenient. In addition, the growing number of food intolerances, food allergies (see our related article here), and alarming cancer rates means that any change in daily life that might decrease the chances of that happening will bring relief and acceptance from Long Island residents, proponents say.
Finally, most Long Islanders agree that environmental cleanup costs are sky-high, and a decrease in plastic litter can make a major difference. By helping to reduce this type of waste, restaurants can promote their forward-thinking attitudes and attract new customers.
Please contact us with any compliance questions you may have.