The use of polystyrene, or plastic foam, has had a long history in Virginia of being used to package food in restaurants and even churches. This trend will be coming to an end due to a bill that has passed the General Assembly. Originally, this bill passed in 2020 but was required by Senate reenactment clause to be voted on again to go into effect. The law goes into effect in 2025 and effectively bans the use of plastic foam in restaurants and those that continue to use it in their business will face a fine of up to $50 a day.
Chick-fil-A, a national chain known for their chicken sandwiches and waffle fries is an example of just one business that would be directly impacted by this bill. Chains of over 20 stores would be forced to adhere to this regulation by 2023 whereas smaller businesses would have two more years to make that change.
“This bill does make a difference for us because we do use [polystyrene] for our drinks,” said the general manager of the Chick-fil-A on Midlothian Turnpike. “What’s up in the air is if the special blend of foam that we use will still be considered part of the ban. If it is then we will likely switch to a paper-based cup.”
Chick-fil-A uses a special blend of foams that can be recycled as well as recycling the foam that is used in stores according to their manager. Businesses that take steps to mitigate the use of their foams will not be exempt from the fine at this time as the ban applies to any use of polystyrene.
Restaurants such as Qdoba do not use any polystyrene in their daily use to begin with; When asked about how this bill would affect their business, the manager of one Qdoba location said that this ban is not a concern for them.
This bill was originally set to only affect private businesses but recent negotiations in the Senate have expanded include nonprofits and schools as well. The original author of this bill, Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond, explained the negotiations by stating, “We’re just leveling the playing field so not only restaurants, but nonprofits and schools will be subject to this ban in 2025,” to David Tran with Capitol News Service. Carr that this bill is a step in the right direction for Virginia to be more environmentally conscious and that there is still a lot more that can be done to impact our carbon footprint.
The fine will cost businesses as much as $50 a day if restaurants, nonprofits, or schools fail to comply with the restriction and the money gathered from these fines will be used in part to fund campaigns that warn against the dangers of using polystyrene. The only obstacle to this becoming law now is the governor signing the bill itself which he is expected to do in the next coming weeks.
With this law, Virginia would become one of the few southern states in America to ban the use of polystyrene altogether.