The East Hampton Town Board voted unanimously to ban single-use polystyrene packaging on Jan. 17, with the law expected to go into effect on Earth Day, April 22.

Southampton Town unanimously approved similar legislation that would also apply to plastic straws on the afternoon of Feb. 12. Southampton’s law will go into effect May 8.

Both towns are also planning to ban the sale of polystyrene packing peanuts and coolers as well.

The law would not apply to prepackaged food items that arrive at retail establishments in foam containers, and would not apply to foam commonly used as the base for raw meat and fish packages. It would apply to clamshell-style polystyrene takeout containers and coffee cups.

According to the legislative intent of both proposed laws, “the substance has historically been difficult and costly to recycle and poorly biodegradable. Most of the polystyrene foam that ends up in landfills will be there 500 years from now. Polystyrene foam can also be very toxic when burned. It is often found among common litter in the Town or in landfills throughout the region. Because of the nature and ubiquity of polystyrene foam, it can threaten animal and human health.”

Board members in Southampton expressed support for the measure at their Jan. 22 hearing.

“Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic dumped into our oceans,” said Councilwoman Julie Lofstad. “We all need to change our behaviors…otherwise these beautiful oceans, bays and beaches, they’re going to be gone.”

Councilman TommyJohn Schiavoni pointed out that Southampton was one of the first towns in New York State to ban single use plastic bags, and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in his 2019 State of the State address that he is considering banning plastic bags statewide.

“Something like this would send a strong statement to the rest of the state,” he said of the proposed polystyrene ban.

“This is a really good first start. There is more to do,” said Councilman John Bouvier.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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