by Alyssa Vera |
The Patchogue Village Board is considering a law banning the use of Styrofoam in businesses, a move officials believe would mostly affect local eateries dealing in take-out.
The proposal is in its preliminary stages.
“Styrofoam can’t be recycled and it’s non-biodegradable. It actually has a lifespan of over 500 years,” said village Trustee Joseph Keyes, who is spearheading the effort.
What makes this expanded polystyrene foam so impossible to break down?
The answer Keyes says, lies in the synthetic resin from which it’s made.
“It’s called expanded polystyrene, and it holds 57 different types of chemicals altogether,” said Keyes, also a member of the Protecting the Environment of Patchogue Committee.
The chemicals contain carcinogens the Environmental Protection Agency and the county Department of Health Services say are “very detrimental to our health and the environment,” including marine life, Keyes told GreaterPatchogue.
Styrofoam products — especially plates and cups — are known for losing their original shape, so they typically can’t be used as a recyclable.
The solution on the local level is to replace Styrofoam with recyclable items that are better for the environment, according to Keyes.
The proposal follows last year’s ban on single-use plastic bags throughout the village.
Patchogue businesses have already taken this route by choice.
“A lot of the restaurants are using recyclable plastic and aluminum takeout dishes,” Keyes said. “There’s also biodegradable cardboard takeout containers that they can use instead.”
Keyes is working in communication with David Kennedy of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, who says the ban is being received well by many members of the community, including business owners.
“We’ve had very little backlash; everybody seemed to hop on board pretty well,” said Kennedy.
Deli Owner John Catarizaro, 57, is among those agreeing with the proposal.
“I’ve been running [John’s Country Store] for 11 years but I’m prepared to do away with our old business model,” he said.
Catarizaro says that plans to ban Styrofoam had already been anticipated, so he wasn’t surprised the proposal is moving forward in Village Hall.
“Styrofoam is practical and affordable and it’s all about smart business these days. That’s why I think businesses used it in the first place,” said Catarizaro.
However cost effective, he said he realizes Styrofoam and similar products aren’t good for the environment in the long term.
“I can understand why we’re moving forward with the ban; it helps the future of the Earth,” Catarizaro said.
The village and the chamber are still trying to get a better feel for how many businesses are using the brand, but “living in a day where environmental concerns are more on the forefront of people’s minds makes it easier for the law to be accepted,” Kennedy said.
Keyes even thinks the move might inspire other local governments across the U.S. to do the same, especially those near waterways.
“Marine life like turtles and fish try to eat the small pieces because they think it’s food and it’s not good for them,” he said. “We might be the first ones, but maybe one day we’ll have a full impact on Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven.”
Photo: Patchogue Village Trustee Joseph Keyes last week in Patchogue. (Credit: Alyssa Vera)