Styrofoam ban clears Senate

By: - June 2, 2023 3:01 pm

A bill to ban Styrofoam containers passed through the Rhode Island Senate on June 1. (Getty image)

PROVIDENCE — A measure to ban Styrofoam containers in Rhode Island restaurants by 2025 cruised through the Rhode Island Senate Thursday. 

The state Senate on Thursday voted 33-2 to ban plastic cocktail stirrers and foam to-go boxes at restaurants, pubs, snack bars in an effort to reduce litter caused by these containers.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller, a Warwick Democrat, would take effect Jan. 1, 2025. Should the bill become law, Rhode Island would join eight other states and Washington D.C. that have enacted similar bans.

Fairs, farmers markets, hospitals, nursing homes, meals-on-wheels programs, or charitable organizations that provide food for free will still be allowed to pack food in foam containers. The bill also exempts prepackaged food items that a restaurant purchases at wholesale, along with foam coolers or ice chests used for processing or shipping food.

Miller, who has established a number of restaurants in the Providence area, said foam takeout containers and plastic stirrers are not cost-effective to recycle, and they endanger animals when they become litter.

“Foam is one of the worst offenders when it comes to single-use food packaging,” he said in a statement. “It is generally not recycled, and its light weight allows it to easily blow away when it becomes litter, harming our land and marine environment.”

Reducing waste must be a priority for Rhode Island, Miller added. He noted the Central Landfill in Johnston is expected to reach capacity by 2040.

Miller’s bill now heads to the House for consideration, where companion legislation is sponsored by David Bennett, a Warwick Democrat. Bennett’s bill was held for further study by the House Environmental and Natural Resources Committee in March.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.