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County Executive McCoy Signs Legislation Expanding Styrofoam Ban; Issues Executive Order

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2018 11:57 AM

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today signed Local Law L, which bans the use of polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) for disposable food service ware by all food establishments throughout Albany County and requires the use of compostable or recyclable alternatives. McCoy also issued a related Executive Order.

The local law builds on the Styrofoam ban signed by County Executive McCoy in 2013 that applied to chain food establishments with at least fifteen locations around the country. McCoy held a public hearing on the latest measure on August 30 where he heard from advocates and members of the community who spoke in favor of the ban, citing the environmental and health benefits the measure would have.

“As leaders from around the world gather in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit, today we are taking another bold step towards a more sustainable future that leaves our water and public health better protected and making Albany County the greenest county in the state,” said County Executive McCoy.

“In signing this important piece of legislation, I am also announcing an executive order that will enhance the bill’s effectiveness by holding county government to the same standards as our businesses by mandating all agencies and vendors immediately end the use of polystyrene for food.”

While most agencies have already ended the use of polystyrene for food delivery, the first executive order would create a universal ban for all of Albany County government.

Polystyrene, especially if it has been used to carry food and drink products, cannot be effectively recycled and therefore is sent to landfills where it does not biodegrade. The material can be easily broken down into pieces that clog storm drains and smaller particles that pollute local waterways and municipal water supplies and has been linked to adverse health effects including cancer.

"Plastic pollution is a serious problem that is getting worse with each passing day. Reducing single-use plastic packaging, including polystyrene, will drive innovation and give us a fighting chance to reduce the massive amounts of plastic entering our waterways,” said Judith Enck, Visiting Professor at Bennington College and former EPA Regional Administrator. “I commend the Albany County Legislature and County Executive Dan McCoy for enacting this important local law. I hope that other communities will do the same."

“Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy should be applauded for instituting a county-wide ban on all polystyrene foam containers used by restaurants, county agencies and vendors. Polystyrene foam is not reusable or recyclable, never biodegrades, and has profound impacts to our health—it has no place in Albany County,” said Peter Iwanowicz, Executive Director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “Once again, Dan McCoy and the Albany County Legislature have proven to be strong advocates for our environment and leaders in waste reduction.”

“Each year at Riverkeeper’s Sweep, we find large amounts of polystyrene products — which are not recyclable or compostable — in the Hudson River and its tributaries. Many are single-use polystyrene take out containers, which crumble into small pieces, making them hard to clean up, and they may be accidentally eaten by fish and birds,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. “So, on behalf of the ecology of our waterways and shorelines, we commend the County Legislature and County Executive McCoy for taking a clear stand for the environment.”

The ban comes as localities across the United States scramble to find manufacturers to buy many recyclable goods that will ultimately enter the waste-stream after China recently instituted tighter regulations on the materials entering their country.

The expanded ban exempts any non-profit organization whose primary purpose is selling food for fundraising efforts as well as grocery stores who are permitted to operate through regulation from the New York State Department of Health. Waivers for the ban can be permitted if the establishment demonstrates that making the switch will be detrimental to their operations.

The approval of this legislation comes as other localities from across the state and country have implemented similar measures, including Putnam, Ulster and Dutchess Counties as well as New York City.

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Albany County ExecutiveDaniel P. McCoy