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Grocers raise concerns over Styrofoam ban

McCoy holds public hearing on proposed law, most residents urge approval

Nick Vaugh, spokesman for the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks against the county's proposed Food Service Waste Reduction Act during a public hearing held by County Executive Dan McCoy on Monday, Dec 2.

Nick Vaugh, spokesman for the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks against the county's proposed Food Service Waste Reduction Act during a public hearing held by County Executive Dan McCoy on Monday, Dec 2. Photo by John Purcell.

— Leading supermarket chains voiced qualms over the Albany County Legislature’s recently adopted Food Service Waste Reduction Act, but not over the most contentious proposal banning Styrofoam containers. Their concerns rested mainly on the requirement of compostable or biodegradable packaging.

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More than 50 people turned out to speak Monday, Dec. 2., during the public hearing on Albany County’s Food Service Waste Reduction Act held by county Executive Dan McCoy.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy held a public hearing Monday, Dec. 2, on the proposed local law that would ban polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, in food containers used at chain food establishments. About 50 people spoke up during the hearing, which lasted around two and a half hours. Most of those comments were in favor of the law, with many voicing concern about the foam’s impact on the landfill and potential health issues.

Those against the law, which included industry representatives and businesses, said it could have grave economic consequences that could mean an end to their livelihoods. They also refuted any health concerns.

Several familiar voices in the debate returned, but grocery store representatives also raised new concerns about the law’s possible effect on prepared and packaged foods.

George Parmenter, sustainability manager for Hannaford Supermarkets, said nearly all prepackaged food is in a recyclable container at the store. Parmenter was concerned such packaging would have to be replaced with non-recyclable packing under the law.

“If recyclable packages are prohibited for items in-store, we will have to overcome that by finding replacements for all these packages,” Parmenter said. “This would be a costly and complex process. … We are not even sure that we could replace everything that we have.”

The law requires all chain food service establishments using disposable food service ware to use a “suitable, alternative product” that is compostable or biodegradable. There is no mention of recyclability.

Shannon DeFreese, spokeswoman for ShopRite, also said the bill would increase costs and reduce job opportunities.

“This potential bill could increase the cost by three times,” DeFreese said. “All of this cost has to be absorbed by our company because we wouldn’t want to raise prices in such a competitive market.”

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