Jonas Gerlach

Senate passes ban on restaurant use of plastics

Sam Haut Government, Headlines

Jonas Gerlach

Senate passes bill that bans polystyrene containers.

The Senate on Thursday passed the bill banning the use of single-use foam take containers and plastic items in restaurants, but it will allow customers to request a straw. 

Senate Bill 51, sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, would ban the use of beverage, cocktail picks and sandwich picks made of plastic, but exempts straws attached to an item such as a juice box and straws being used in a hospital or long-term care facility.

It would be implemented July 1, 2025 if signed into law.

A fiscal note for the bill is not required because it doesn’t impact the state budget.

Sen. Nicole Poore, D-Delaware City, who didn’t vote for the bill, said that she has a child with special needs who needs to drink with a straw and isn’t able to use paper ones.

“Having a child with special needs, I know what it’s like that Nicholas can’t drink out of a cup,” Poore said. “So you do need a straw … Unfortunately, when you have a child who drools on top of trying to drink out of a straw, it (paper) evaporates pretty quickly.”

Poore, along with several other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker, R-Oceanview. and Sen. Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, expressed concern that the bill would create too many exceptions for companies to still use plastic products.

The ban on polystyrene food packaging doesn’t apply to pre-packaged food, healthcare providers, fire companies or nonprofit organizations.

Paradee said he wishes the bill went further, that right now he sees it as an important first step and hopes years down the road to easily remove those exceptions.

Pettyjohn brought up Keith Curry, the distribution manager in Delaware for Dart Container, as an expert witness and asked him what impact the bill would have on their company.

Curry said in response that the bill would make it harder for them to hire workers.

“At minimum, it would have a negative impact on the size of our workforce…too early to speculate on how of an impact it would have,” Curry said. “At minimum it would restrict my ability to recruit more employees here in Delaware.”

Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, asked if Dart is doing anything to reduce polystyrene production. He said he couldn’t offer the exact number, but that they are reducing that production.

Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, asked Curry if he could say what percentage of their products used in Delaware would be impacted by the bill. Curry replied that he has some idea what the percentage is, but the managers of those lines should answer that question.

Hocker asked Curry if they would have relocated to Delaware if they knew Senate Bill 51 would pass.

Curry said the owners would have to answer that question, but he would say no.

that he would refer that question to the owners of Dart, he personally would say no.

The bill has 26 additional sponsors and cosponsors. House Minority Leader Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, is the sole Republican.

McBride said that she would like to be added as a cosponsor for the legislation because she has seen the detrimental impact of polystyrene containers at Fox Point Park.

“I will never forget walking along the edge of that park where the river meets it and the ground literally shifts under your feet as you walk over polystyrene container after polystyrene container,” McBride said.

“And for me, every time I think about this bill, that image comes up. The amount of polystyrene pollution that exists within our parks along the Delaware River.”

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.

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