Credit: Jack Kramer file photo / CTNewsJunkie

The Senate voted 24-11 to ban the use of Styrofoam containers and trays in schools and restaurants by July 1, 2024. 

Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, said the bill took into consideration the struggles restaurants were having with the pandemic and the supply chain by giving them another year to switch to a newer more environmentally-friendly container. 

She said these single-use Styrofoam containers don’t break down and are not good for the environment. 

The bill requires that the owner or operator of a restaurant or caterer that violates the ban receive a warning for a first violation, $200 fine for a second violation, $500 fine for a third violation, and $1,000 fine for a subsequent violation. A restaurant or caterer may only be issued one violation per day. 

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Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said he’s already gotten rid of Styrofoam containers at his restaurant, but he said the bill exempts grocery stores, which use the material for packaging eggs, raw meat and seafood. 

Cohen said the grocery store industry expressed concern over food safety. 

“We decided we would exempt them from the bill at this point,” Cohen said. 

Formica said he finds the exemption offensive. 

“The practicality of what we’re doing up here makes absolutely no sense,” Formica said. “Restaurants, caterers, school districts are targeted by this bill and the biggest users are exempt because of food safety, I disagree with that exemption.”

The Connecticut Restaurant Association opposed the legislation. 

Scott Dolch, executive director of the association, said many restaurants have made the transition to other more environmentally friendly to-go containers, while others are still struggling to find an alternative. 

He said he supports the intent of the legislation, but the financial burden at this point in time is too great. 

The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education also opposed the bill because of the potential expense. They said a lot of districts no longer use the heavy plastic trays because the machinery to wash them has broken down and is too expensive to fix. They also said paper trays would also be too expensive. 

Cohen said a task force would study the need for hardship waivers in the future. 

The bill now heads to the House.