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House Amends Ban on Single Use Foam Containers, Sends Back to Senate

Because of course it did. The Amendments, from Rep. Paul Baumbach, one of the bill’s sponsors seemed to be friendly. The vote was 29-11-1, with four Republicans joining all the Democrats sans Debra Heffernan, who was absent. The remaining Republicans all voted no. 

Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Trey ParadeeSenate Bill 51 would bar restaurants from serving ready-to-eat food in containers made of polystyrene, a non-biodegradable and potentially carcinogenic petroleum product best known by the brand name Styrofoam, starting on July 1, 2025. 

The bill would further prohibit food establishments in Delaware from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by a consumer, while also banning single-use plastic coffee stirrers, cocktail picks and sandwich picks.

SB 51 would mark another important step forward in Delaware’s recent efforts to prevent single-use plastics from ending up in streams, rivers, forests, beaches, and landfills. The Delaware General Assembly passed legislation in both 2019 and 2021 that significantly curtailed the distribution of single-use plastic bags by Delaware grocery stores and other retailers.

The House approved a series of amendments Thursday that would tighten exemptions and clarify the impact that violations would have on food establishments. Specifically, the amendments would:

  • Remove the exceptions for fire companies and nonprofit organizations from the prohibition on providing ready-to-eat food in polystyrene foam food service packaging.
  • Narrow the health-care provider exception from the prohibition on providing ready-to-eat food in polystyrene foam food service packaging to only food provided to a patient or resident.
  • Clarify that a food establishment’s license may not be suspended or revoked for violation of this bill and delays the penalty provision to one year after the effective date.

Polystyrene presents significant risks to the health of consumers and the environment during its creation, use and disposal.   

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long listed the polystyrene manufacturing process among the largest producers of hazardous waste and a major source of ground-level ozone, a common contributor to poor air quality and a higher incidence of asthma.  

Polystyrene also is one of the most littered materials in Delaware – one that persists in the environment for thousands of years. Once used in food service, polystyrene can no longer be recycled resulting in tremendous amounts of waste. Over time, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, which are commonly ingested by wildlife and passed into the food chain or water supply.  

At least six states and the District of Columbia have all banned polystyrene from use in food service due to its serious health and environmental risks.  

In addition to polystyrene, SB 51 also seeks to further reduce single-use plastics in Delaware.  

Plastic straws would remain available by customer request – a key compromise with disability advocates who have pointed to the importance of plastic straws for some customers. Single-service plastic coffee stirrers and plastic picks used for sandwiches and cocktails would be banned outright under the legislation. 

Senate Bill 51 – Banning Single Use Take out Foam Containers at RestaurantsCurrrent Status – Senate Passed 16-3-2. House Passed 29-11-1. Sent back to the Senate.
House SponsorsBaumbach, Phillips, Chukwuocha, Griffith, Harris, Heffernan, Johnson, Lynn, Morrison, Parker Selby, Romer // SmithSenate Sponsors Paradee, Gay, Hansen, Lockman, Pinkney, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend
House Yes VotesBaumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Hensley Shupe Smith Senate Yes Votes Brown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh // Pettyjohn
House No VotesCollins, Dukes, Gray, Hilovsky, Morris, Postles, Ramone, Short, Spiegelman, Vanderwende, YearickSenate No VotesHocker, Richardson, Wilson
House Absents or Not VotingHeffernanSenate Absent or Not VotingBuckson, Lawson

“We know that polystyrene containers and single-use plastic products contribute greatly to our litter problem, but they also present a huge health concern,” said Rep. Baumbach. “I am honored to partner with Sen. Trey Paradee and Rep. Sophie Phillips to lead the House in passing SB 51 today. Through persistent advocacy by supporters throughout the state, we shall be able to join our neighbors in Maryland and New Jersey in protecting our residents and our environment from this harmful material.”

“Polystyrene is one of the most littered materials across our state. Over time, this cheap material breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, which can be ingested by wildlife and passed into the food chain or water supply,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, prime sponsor of SB 51. “That’s why we must take action to reduce the amount of plastics that end up in our landfills, along our streets, and in our waterways. I thank my colleagues for voting to pass this legislation.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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