Virginia lawmakers vote to ban plastic foam food containers

Capitol Connection

FILE PHOTO – Crushed plastic foam container.
(Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s restaurants and food vendors won’t be allowed to use plastic foam to-go containers by July 2025 under legislation headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates gave final approval to a bill from Del. Betsy Carr (D-Richmond) that bans businesses from using polystyrene containers for prepared food delivery. Large businesses, including chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, will have to stop by July 2023 and smaller businesses by July 2025.

The legislation does not prevent companies from buying plastic foam containers and language in it excludes the delivery of unprepared food, but pro-business groups came out in opposition of the bill. Carr expressed her concerns with low recycling rates of polystyrene and littering.

The bill was approved last year but a reenactment clause forced lawmakers to vote on the measure again this year before it could go to Northam for his signature. The House voted 58-40 to advance the bill on Jan. 19 before the legislation went to the Senate.

State Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax) proposed an amendment to also prohibit local schools, nonprofits and governments from using plastic foam containers. Peterson argued that if the containers were deemed unacceptable for businesses, they should be banned in school districts.

In the end, lawmakers agreed with the change and each chamber voted Wednesday to approve the legislation. Both were bipartisan votes, with the Senate voting 24-15 and the House’s tally being 57-39.

The bill now goes to the governor, who will put the legislation into effect with his signature. Multiple cities and states have enacted some sort of plastic bag or container ban, with Virginia’s neighbor, Maryland, being the first state to do so.

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