So long, styrofoam

Hoboken ban on styrofoam and reusable plastic bags begins March 8

Styrofoam is a major polluter of local waters.
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Styrofoam is a major polluter of local waters.

Hoboken residents can say goodbye to Styrofoam and all carryout plastic bags when the new ban officially takes effect on Sunday, March. 8

In August 2019, the council adopted an ordinance banning the use of all single-service Styrofoam products and all carryout plastic bags from food and retail establishments.

According to the city, the new regulations are designed to advance Hoboken’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Expanded plastic bag ban

The full carryout plastic bag ban strengthens the original single-use carryout plastic bag ban that began in January 2019 and is currently in effect.

Under the current regulations, all single-use plastic bags are prohibited. Retail and food establishments are permitted to sell paper or reusable plastic bags. The latter must be at least 2.25 milliliters in width, can carry a minimum of 22 pounds, and can be used at least 125 times, among other regulations.

The council amended the ordinance to include banning reusable plastic bags, citing that many residents don’t in fact reuse them, instead opting to throw them away as if they were single-use carryout plastic bags.

Under the expanded ban, retail and food establishments must still make paper bags available to customers for a fee of $0.10 to $0.25 per bag. The proceeds from the fee will continue to be collected by the retail or food establishment to offset the costs of the paper bags.

Some single-use plastic bags are still permitted under the law, including produce bags; product bags (packaging); bags for frozen foods, meat, fish, flowers, plants, or baked goods; pharmacy prescription bags; newspaper bags; laundry or dry-cleaning bags; and packages of multiple bags, which include pet waste bags.

Styrofoam ban

The ordinance now includes a ban on single-service Styrofoam. Hoboken joins other cities across the country, including New York City, Washington DC, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Albany, and Seattle in banning expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam products, commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam.

EPS is a plastic resin manufactured into consumer products such as Styrofoam cups, containers, trays, plates, clam-shell cases, and egg cartons, as well as loose-fill packaging like packing peanuts.

The council hopes removing Styrofoam will help the city continue to move toward its goal of sending zero waste to landfills and making the city more eco-friendly, as residents and retailers choose alternative materials that are recyclable such as aluminum, uncoated paper, glass, and compostable containers.

EPS isn’t biodegradable and can last in landfills for 500 years or more.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added styrene, a chemical found in Styrofoam products, to its list of known or possible carcinogens.

When improperly disposed of, Styrofoam clogs storm drains and pollutes the Hudson River and the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, harming marine life.

The 2016 NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection Report by the NY/NJ Baykeeper found that at least 165,840,512 plastic particles are floating within NY-NJ Harbor Estuary waters at any given time. The most abundant types of plastic were Styrofoam, at 38 percent.

Products that consist of EPS, including cups, containers, lids, closures, trays, plates, utensils, and napkins will no longer be permitted for distribution at retail or food establishments. Straws are not included in the new regulations.

The ban does not apply to Styrofoam containers used for prepackaged food or products that have been filled and sealed outside Hoboken before they are received by the retailer or mobile food commissary. It also doesn’t include similar containers used to store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood, or poultry that is sold from a butcher case or similar appliance.

For more information on the ban,  visit http://www.hobokennj.gov/plasticbags

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.