Ulster County Executive Mike Hein Signs Local Law Prohibiting The Use Of Polystyrene Food Containers By Restaurants

Posted April 17, 2015

Gardiner, NY- Ulster County’s commitment to protect the environment took another step closer today when County Executive Mike Hein signed a local law prohibiting food service establishments from using containers made from polystyrene foam.  The containers are a popular choice of fast food chains and other restaurants that use them for take-out orders or leftovers.  Polystyrene, often referred to as its proprietary trade name Styrofoam, is a non-biodegradable product that is also not easily recyclable.  Polystyrene containers clog landfills and they are a frequent source of litter along streets, parks and waterways.  In addition to the environmental disposal concerns, polystyrene presents health risks as well, as the product contains styrene, a carcinogen, and the production of polystyrene utilizes hydrofluorocarbons which have 1000 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide.    


“Today is an historic day for Ulster County’s environment; we took a stand to protect our future, our people and our children.  Our government imposed a cutting edge ban of the environmentally destructive single use polystyrene containers,” said County Executive Mike Hein.  “There are far better and safer alternatives to polystyrene containers that are environmentally friendly, and it is our responsibility to protect our environment, not just for us but for our children and grandchildren.  If we are to be environmental stewards we must decrease the amount of waste going into landfills, move away from the use of non-biodegradable materials and utilize recyclable products, and continue to invest in sustainable energy sources.  I want to commend Legislator Tracey Bartels and Legislator Mary Wawro for sponsoring this forward-thinking legislation, as well as Legislator Jeanette Provenzano who helped raise awareness of the need for this important law.”


Tracey Bartels, Ulster County Legislator

“This Local Law will significantly reduce waste volume and cost in Ulster County but it’s about more than that,” said Tracey Bartels, Ulster County Legislator.  “100% of humans tested had styrene in their fat tissue.  It has been shown to be a known carcinogen in lab animals.  I have a four year old daughter.  How can I explain that a cup that is designed to be thrown away after one use will be around for a minimum of twenty generations?  We have to be responsible.  There are better alternatives; and as other communities follow our lead, even more will become available.  I want to thank County Executive Hein for his continued environmental leadership, the members of the Legislature that supported this effort and members of the public who chose to have their voices heard.”


Mary Wawro, Ulster County Legislator

“Polystyrene foam is an environmental and health hazard. It is non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and non-recyclable.   As a mother and grandmother, I feel very strongly about the urgency of this legislation,”Mary Wawro, Ulster County Legislator.  “Ulster County is on the leading edge of what most certainly is becoming a national movement.  We are lucky to have so many model businesses in this county.  I believe that the transition to alternatives will be smooth and a positive change for all.  I am very grateful tothe County Executive, my fellow Legislators, and the public for their support.”


Amanda LaValle, Coordinator of Ulster County Department of the Environment

“The County Executive’s administration works tirelessly to improve the sustainability of County government operations,” said Amanda LaValle, Coordinator of Ulster County Department of the Environment.  “Today's legislation is a great step forward in not only making Ulster County more sustainable and environmentally responsible but acting to reduce potential toxins which can impact both the environment and human health.”


Ulster County’s comprehensive polystyrene ban, entitled the “Food Service Waste Reduction Act,” is among the first in New York State and demonstrates the County’s continued commitment to lead the way in environmental stewardship.  Nationwide, Americans discard 2.3 million tons of polystyrene foam products into landfills each year.


The polystyrene ban affects food service establishments, such as restaurants and includes chain restaurants, as well as any County managed concessions or sponsored event.  The penalties for violating the law range from fines of $250 to $1,000 for each day a food service establishment uses a prohibited food service container.