Christine Cohen

State Senator

Christine Cohen

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Listening, Advocating & Getting Results

April 20, 2022

Senate Passes Bill Banning Single-Use Styrofoam and Trays in Schools & Restaurants After July 1, 2024

HARTFORD – The state Senate today voted to ban the use of many single-use expanded polystyrene products – most often referred to under their trademarked name ‘Styrofoam’ – from schools, universities and restaurants in Connecticut beginning July 1, 2024, thereby significantly reducing the amount non-recyclable material that contributes thousands of tons of waste every year to Connecticut’s rapidly filling municipal landfills.

State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), who is Senate Chair of the Environment Committee, led debate and passage of the Senate Bill 118, which passed on a 23-11 vote. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration before the legislature adjourns for the year on May 4.

“I am thrilled with the passage of this important ban out of the Senate chamber this evening,” Sen. Cohen said. “We have learned that not only is polystyrene harmful to our environment, but it has detrimental impacts to our health and safety. With so many alternatives on the market these days and many schools and restaurants already choosing to offer those substitutes, it makes sense to make this policy statewide.”

SB 118 has four main components:

Connecticut’s public schools, regional school districts, regional vocational-technical schools, UConn, all four state universities, 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College must phase-out the use of expanded polystyrene trays by July 1, 2024. Schools have to end or amend any purchasing contracts for such trays by July 1, 2023 and discontinue use of the trays by July 1, 2024.
Restaurants and catering businesses are prohibited from providing or distributing single-use expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers to customers beginning July 1, 2024. Exempted from the ban are containers that are filled and sealed before being received by a restaurant or caterer that are sold to customers, or containers used by a butcher or store to hold raw meat.
The owner or operator of a restaurant or caterer who violates the ban will receive a warning for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation, a $500 fine for a third violation, and a $1,000 fine for a subsequent violation. Restaurants and caterers can only be issued one violation per day. The ban would be enforced by a local health department or health district, or by the state departments of Public Health, Consumer Protection or the Energy and Environmental Protection.
By February 1, 2025, the DPH, DCP, and DEEP must submit a report to the legislature on the law’s enforcement and the need to establish a hardship waiver for any restaurant or caterer with a demonstrated financial hardship directly caused by the law.

At its February 25 public hearing, the polystyrene ban was supported by an 8:1 margin by Connecticut residents. Many spoke of the non-recyclable nature and potentially hazardous nature of the material, which was invented in the 1940s at Dow’s Chemical Physics Lab.

The Earth Resource Foundation reported in 1986 – nearly 40 years ago – that Styrofoam manufacturers were the fifth-largest producer of toxic waste in the word; the Green Dining Alliance estimates that 2.3 million tons of expanded polystyrene products end up in landfills every year, accounting for about 30% of all the landfill space on the planet. In Connecticut, a 2015 report concluded that about 12,000 tons of food-grade expanded polystyrene – not including waste from schools – was thrown away every year in Connecticut’s trash.

During the bill’s public hearing, Julie DesChamps of Waste Free Greenwich – part of a coalition of groups forming ReThink Disposable CT – testified that the group conducted a survey of 31 Connecticut school districts in 2021 and found that 80% of them had already switched from expanded polystyrene trays to some type of safer, more environmentally friendly disposable or even reusable food serviceware. Districts that have already transitioned away from Styrofoam school food trays include New Canaan, Norwich, Wilton, Bristol, New Haven, Norwalk and Stamford.