South Fork Towns To Attempt Polystyrene Ban

Southampton and East Hampton towns are embarking in January on a quest to bar polystyrene (commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam) food containers within the boundaries of their towns.

East Hampton will hold a public hearing on the proposed ban at their board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 6:30, while Southampton is planning to hold a public hearing on their version of the law on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. Southampton is considering a holding a second public hearing in the hamlet of Hampton Bays, which has one of the largest downtowns in the town that is not in an incorporated village. Incorporated villages would not be subject to the law unless their village boards passed similar legislation. East Hampton Village has already banned polystyrene containers.

Both laws are similar in their construction, though Southampton is also planning to ban plastic straws and stirrers as part of the legislation.

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.

Southampton’s plastic straw ban would allow retailers to keep a small supply of plastic straws on hand to provide to people who need them due to provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Last summer, numerous environmental groups, led by the Surfrider Foundation’s Eastern Long Island Chapter, embarked on an educational campaign known as “strawless summer,” in which 45 South Fork businesses agreed to not give their customers plastic straws and members of the public were encouraged not to ask for straws at restaurants.

If enacted, East Hampton’s law would go into effect April 22, 2019, and Southampton’s law would go into effect May 9, 2019.

Both proposed laws make note that polystyrene has been identified as a potential human carcinogen by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research of Cancer, and that the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have all set styrene exposure limits.

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.”

The full text of East Hampton’s proposed law is online here and the full text of Southampton’s proposed law is online here.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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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