Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone marked Earth Day today by announcing he will sign a pair of bills passed by the legislature April 9 that ban the use of polystyrene foam containers and restrict the use of drinking straws and stirrers in Suffolk County.

Both were sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

“It is most fitting that on Earth Day, we as a county have formally codified our commitment to addressing the proliferation of single use plastics, which is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time,” Hahn said.

Previous county legislation that imposed a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic bags dramatically reduced their use in Suffolk and resulted in “removing more than a billion plastic bags in the first year,” Hahn said.

The new law is expected to remove more than a million plastic straws in the its first year, she said.

Hahn encouraged residents to look for restaurants that have already taken a straw-less pledge in advance of the law’s effective date.

“They are committting to protecting our environment and protecting our wildlife,” she said.

Environmental advocates have urged government to adopt bans on single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and utensils, citing disposal costs as well as impacts on wildlife — marine life in particular.

Allison DePerte, a biologist with the Hampton Bays-based Atlantic Marine Conservation Society said her organization responds when marine mammals and sea turtles wash ashore. These animals are greatly impacted by plastics debris in the ocean, she said.

“This year alone, we’ve seen over 90 animals that have washed up on these shores,” DePrete said.

“These latest measures cement Suffolk County’s reputation as the statewide leader in protecting our environment,” Bellone said. “I want to thank Legislator Hahn for championing this effort which will go a long way in protecting Long Island’s oceans, parks, and marine life.”

One bill prohibits eateries from offering cups, containers, trays and other disposable items made of polystyrene, while also banning retail stores from selling these products and polystyrene-based packing materials to consumers. The other bill bans food establishments from providing plastic straws and stirrers, requiring them to provide biodegradable straws and stirrers and then only by request.

The bills were a result of the recommendations of the county’s Single-Use Plastic Reduction Task Force. Hahn, who is the Chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee also leads the task force.

Correction: This article originally stated that County Executive Bellone signed the bills today. He announced today that he will sign the bills.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.