Styrofoam ban bill has public hearing; GEPA will ask for more staff if enacted

Styrofoam is the 5th largest source of hazardous waste in the United States. (PNC file photo)

The bill banning the sale of polystyrene foam or styrofoam containers was publicly heard at the legislature Thursday morning.

Bill 69 also prohibits the serving of prepared foods using styrofoam containers.

The measure was introduced by the Legislature’s Committee of Youth on behalf of the Guam Youth Congress.

Should the bill become law, the ban will take effect in January 2023.

Guam Youth Congress Representative Kiana Yabut says having the enactment date of the ban in 2023 gives the community a substantial amount of time to prepare and adjust for the coming change, just like the way the community is adjusting now with the plastic bag ban.

Yabut — who is the primary sponsor of the bill — presented testimony during the hearing, saying that a UOG report on the community’s response for sustainable packaging spurred her to introduce the measure.

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“While I was doing research for the bill, I found a University of Guam study that found that 58 percent of people are willing to purchase sustainable options rather than styrofoam if they were given the options…and when I saw that, I thought that this styrofoam ban was very possible for our island,” Yabut said.

The measure also sets penalties for violators, ranging from $500 for the first offense up to $10,000 for any offenses exceeding a one-year period.

All fees will be deposited to the Recycling Revolving Fund.

Under the legislation, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency has been tasked to oversee educational outreach activities as well as the enforcement of the law.

Glenn San Nicolas, Solid Waste Manager for Guam EPA, offered positive testimony on behalf of the environmental agency but also requested for resources to support this unfunded mandate.

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“We ask that you and your colleagues consider that this unfunded mandate would create a need for additional resources to inspect and enforce this additional statute under the Solid Waste Management program. Therefore, Guam EPA is requesting funding for 2 additional staff — full-time employees to enforce this mandate,” San Nicolas said.

He added that polystyrene is extremely difficult to dispose of properly and studies have shown that the production and use of polystyrene cause adverse environmental and health effects. He quoted a study by the USEPA which says that styrofoam is the 5th largest source of hazardous waste in the United States.