The Putnam Examiner

Proposed Polystyrene Ban Dies in Leg. Committee

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After the legislation was tabled at the start of the month during a full legislative meeting, one legislator’s push to ban polystyrene across much of Putnam County died in committee last week.

In her final meeting as chairwoman of the health committee, outgoing Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra was unable to convince enough of her fellow lawmakers to move forward with the measure that would have outlawed at least 20 food service businesses from using polystyrene in Putnam.

In her final plea, Scuccimarra argued the dangers of polystyrene outweighed any inconvenience businesses might face from the ban. She noted polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, puts toxins in a person’s food, especially hot drinks and it takes about 500 years for it to decompose leaving it in the environment long enough that it contributes to climate change and pollution.

“It’s really not a pleasant material,” Scuccimarra said. “We were concerned with the 20 businesses that this would impact, but I have to say that I think the rest of the population of Putnam is more important that 20 businesses that are making six-figures anyway.”

The proposed ban would only impact food chain restaurants, including

McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, Applebee’s, Dominoes and KFC. The proposed law would result in a written warning for a first offense, and if there were another violation, it would result in a fine not to exceed $250. If there continued to be repeated offenses, it would translate into a fine that cannot exceed $1,000. The health department would enforce any new regulation. Businesses that have a gross income of less than $500,000 would be allowed to file for a waiver to avoid the new law for at least one year.

She said Dutchess County is moving forward with the measure and New York City is considering it, as well. The cost to use a new product for the businesses affected would be minimal, Scuccimarra claimed.

“I really don’t understand the problem with getting this through,” Scuccimarra added.

Legislator Carl Albano, who has voted often with Scuccimarra during her tenure, said the legislation was common sense and businesses would need to move in that direction eventually. Legislator Ginny Nacerino said the merits of the law speak for itself, but noted that several lawmakers that expressed concern about the proposed law were not in attendance for the recent committee meeting.

Legislator Amy Sayegh, who was skeptical of the proposal, said the Food and Drug Administration has deemed polystyrene safe to use.

“If it’s truly bad, why is it in every plate of meat that you buy at the grocery store,” Sayegh said. “I hesitate to just pick and chose what businesses I want to have polystyrene and what businesses I don’t want to have polystyrene.”

“I don’t use it myself, but that doesn’t mean I want to tell businesses that they can’t use a legal, safe product,” Sayegh continued, with Scuccimarra cutting in, “Well, it not safe,” with Sayegh replying “According to the federal government it is.”

“The FDA has made a lot of rulings that I don’t agree with,” Scuccimarra said.

Legislator Bill Gouldman was also against the proposal even though he agreed polystyrene was bad for the environment. He said if the county goes after the businesses that use polystyrene, those companies could open franchises in other places that border Putnam.
“All we’re doing is putting more laws on the books and making it harder for businesses and individuals to survive,” Gouldman said.

Scuccimarra, seeing that the legislation was not going forward, encouraged residents to reach out to county lawmakers about the ban.

“And you tell them how you feel about polystyrene and maybe when this comes back, if it ever does, they’ll know which way to go,” Scuccimarra said.

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