Town Nears Styrofoam Ban

The Town of East Hampton appears set to follow the lead of East Hampton Village in enacting a ban on polystyrene products, commonly referred to as Styrofoam. 

On Tuesday, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby told her colleagues on the board that polystyrene foam, typically used in food packaging, is a petroleum-based plastic that has been identified as a potential carcinogen by the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have all set styrene exposure levels, she said. 

Styrofoam has historically been difficult and costly to recycle, Ms. Overby said. “What you see, that’s the only product it will ever be,” she said. “We cannot make it into anything else; we can’t recycle it.” It biodegrades poorly, she said, and in landfills it “will be there 500 years from now, probably longer.” Polystyrene can also be very toxic when burned, she added. 

The proposed legislation mirrors that passed by the village board in April, which took effect on Aug. 1. That law bans possession or sale of single-service articles consisting of expanded polystyrene, including but not limited to food in single-service articles. Sale of polystyrene loose-fill packaging and coolers are also prohibited in the village. 

Exemptions include polystyrene containers used for prepackaged food that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by a food service establishment or store, and polystyrene containers used to store raw meat, including seafood, pork, and poultry. 

The town’s recycling and litter committee unanimously supported the proposal, Ms. Overby said. The business committee was to review the proposed legislation today, she said, after which it could be scheduled for a public hearing ahead of a vote to adopt it. 

It will be important to alert business owners should a ban be enacted, said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, so they do not order more as existing stock is depleted. Councilman David Lys said that he would present the proposed legislation to the fisheries advisory committee to see if it would impact fishermen. 

“I think it’s a worthwhile effort,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said of the proposal, adding that many establishments have already ended the use of polystyrene. 

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, Len Bernard, the budget director, and Charlene Kagel-Betts, the chief auditor, updated the board with minor modifications to the town’s tentative $80.7 million budget. “What you have now is a preliminary budget,” Mr. Bernard told the board. 

A notice for a public hearing that will be held at the board’s Nov. 1 meeting is to be included in next week’s issue of The Star. The board is tentatively scheduled to vote to adopt the budget on Nov. 15.