The recently passed Virginia budget for fiscal years 2023-2024 includes legislation delaying implementation of state bans on polystyrene for five years. The ban, sponsored by Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond) required large food vendors to stop using the packaging material by July 2023, and all vendors by July 2025. But those deadlines are now July 2028 and July 2030, respectively.
After the ban’s final passage in 2021 under Democratic control, Virginia earned praise for its position from environmental groups. At the time, restaurant lobbyists warned that restaurants needed the containers amid an increase in takeout due to COVID-19. At the same time then-Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill, he also signed a ban on executive branch agencies using single-use plastics, which was reversed this year by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Delaying the styrofoam ban is a win for Republicans in a year where Senate Democrats have blocked most other efforts to roll back pro-environment legislation enacted during 2020 and 2021. The budget is the result of months of bipartisan negotiation. Top negotiator House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight didn’t answer a request for comment, and neither did Carr.
VPM News reported that the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association pushed for the delay. VRLTA Director of Government Affairs told VPM that was largely due to economic impacts on small restaurant owners, but also mentioned advanced recycling.
The General Assembly and Youngkin have been working to support advanced chemical recycling, which can handle some harder-to-recycle plastics like styrofoam while manufacturing new products.
The budget legislation also requires the Department of Environmental Quality to perform a “recycling economic and environmental impact assessment.”
When Youngkin reversed Northam’s single-use plastics ban, he also signed an executive order aimed at encouraging recycling, and ordered an annual report from the DEQ on state agency recycling.
Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said at the time, “The governor wants to encourage and promote recycling, which the previous orders didn’t do.”
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