Some Connecticut lawmakers and the state’s restaurant association are raising concerns about the General Assembly’s latest effort to phase out single-use food containers, noting that many restaurants continue to rely heavily on their takeout orders due to the pandemic.
Rep. Stephen Harding, R-Brookfield, the top House Republican on the Environment Committee, said while the legislation would not bar restaurants from using expanded polystyrene containers until 2023, he still believes it makes sense to wait on passing the bill.
“My biggest concern here is implementing legislation that would put further costs and mandates on these restaurants just as they’re trying to open their doors once again and trying to make some level of profit,” said Harding, noting the uncertainty of when the pandemic will finally be over.
“This could last longer than we all expect, unfortunately,” Harding said. He urged lawmakers to wait on passing the bill until “we’re on the other side of this pandemic,” possibly during the next session. Harding pledged to support the bill at that time.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association has raised similar concerns.
Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, the committee’s top Senate Democrat and the owner of a bagel restaurant, said lawmakers purposely waited until July 1, 2023, to ban the use of expanded polystyrene containers because of the financial challenges restaurants have faced during the pandemic.
But she noted the material is “incredibly harmful” to the environment and must be addressed.
“There is currently no recycling available for these expanded polystyrene products,” she said. “Therefore it lives forever more in our environment.”
With mostly Democratic support, the bill advanced to the House of Representatives for further action.
The legislation would also require school districts to come up with a plan by July 1, 2022, to discontinue using expanded polystyrene trays in cafeterias and require restaurants by Jan. 1, 2022, to only provide plastic straws if a customer requests one, with an exception for people with disabilities.