Illinois House representatives have advanced legislation phasing out single-use plastic polystyrene foam containers at food service establishments.
The Polystyrene Reduction Act, or HB2376, was introduced in February with backing from House Democrats and the Coalition for Plastic Reduction, a 25-member alliance of civic organizations. The legislation, which advanced to the Senate with a 67-43 vote, would require businesses to eliminate the use of single-use plastic containers by 2025.
“We applaud the Illinois House for voting today to phase out the use of single-use plastic. Lake Michigan is one of Illinois’ greatest assets," stated Andrea Densham, senior strategic advisor, Alliance for the Great Lakes, following the vote. "But plastic pollution is a major threat to Lake Michigan and to the people and wildlife that depend on it. To truly tackle the plastic pollution problem, we must move upstream and prevent pollution at the source. Today’s vote is a step in the right direction."
The Great Lakes are a drinking water source for the region's 40 million people. The bodies of water are estimated to contain more than 22 million pounds of plastics, according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Under HB2376, single-use plastic container exemptions would exist for "food pantries, soup kitchens, not-for-profits, and restaurants with a gross income less than $500,000 per year."
Organizations said the measure would not only be a positive development in the fight against plastic pollution but also would open avenues for more effective recycling systems.
“Foam cannot be recycled, but it all too frequently winds up in recycling systems, where it can clog up machinery and contaminate the waste stream," commented Dr. Anja Brandon, associate director of U.S. plastics policy, Ocean Conservancy. "The simplest solution for the health of our recycling system and our waterways is to do away with the material entirely. We’re pleased to see Illinois take this step and look forward to quick action in the Senate this spring.”
Although enforcement for continuing to use single-use plastic containers is not outlined in HB2376, the end goal intends to encourage food service establishments to shift to reusable options. Opponents voiced their concerns, stating customers value the convenience of polystyrene.
Abe Scar, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), commented: “Some plastic just doesn’t belong in 2023, especially single-use plastics like foam take-out cups and containers. "The Coalition for Plastic Reduction thanks Rep. Gong-Gershowitz for her leadership on this bill and calls on the Senate to pass this important legislation.”