By David Tran
A bill in the General Assembly that bans expanded polystyrene containers, also known as plastic foam, at all food vendors by 2025 currently is in limbo while both chambers hash out a Senate amendment rejected by the House.
House Bill 533 would prohibit food vendors, including restaurants, catering trucks, and grocery stores, from serving food and beverages in plastic foam containers, plates, cups, and trays. The ban does not extend to packaging of unprepared food.
Del. Betsy B. Carr, D-Richmond, is chief patron of the bill, which has two phases. First, food chain establishments with 20 locations or more would be required to phase out the plastic foam containers by July 1, 2023. The next deadline for all food vendors to eliminate use of such containers would be July 1, 2025. Carr’s bill exempts institutions such as schools and correctional facilities from the ban.
The bill passed the House (55-44) and the Senate passed it (23-13) with an amendment proposed by Sen. David R. Suetterlein, R-Roanoke. The amendment adds a reenactment clause stipulating the bill will not be enacted until it is voted on and passed again next year by the General Assembly.
The House overwhelming (99-1) rejected the amendment, and the Senate didn’t budge insisting (38-1) on the reenactment clause. As of Feb. 27, the bill was assigned to a conference committee to debate its fate.
Co-patron Del. Paul E. Krizek, D-Fairfax, said the reenactment clause is “a way to kick the can down the road.”
“I was really hoping that we had come to a good compromise,” Krizek said, in reference to the two deadlines given to vendors to stop distributing polystyrene materials.
Krizek’s bill HB 1046 was incorporated into Carr’s bill. He said his bill stemmed from Maine’s prohibition of polystyrene containers that passed in 2019.
“Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries,” Krizek said via email.
Expanded polystyrene foam, widely known as Styrofoam, breaks down into small pieces and takes an estimated hundreds to thousands of years to biodegrade, according to Elly Boehmer, the state director of Environment Virginia. The organization is an affiliate of Environment America, which works to advocate for environmental issues locally and nationally.
“Polystyrene is one of the most commonly found types of litter,” Boehmer said. “By reducing this type of litter from being an option in our environment, it would do a lot to protect our wildlife and our ecosystems.”
The organization campaigned across the state and gathered enough signed petitions to meet with Carr and draft the bill.
Carr said in an email interview that she introduced the bill because polystyrene is a serious contributor to pollution and poses a health risk to humans and animals.
Businesses that still use polystyrene containers after the deadlines will receive a civil penalty up to $50 for each day of violation. Food vendors may be granted a one-year exemption under the basis of “undue economic hardship,” such as the inability to obtain alternatives to polystyrene containers.
Alternatives to plastic foam containers include recyclable materials such as biodegradable paper or plastics, which can be more expensive. However, the additional cost would be minimal if it is passed on to consumers, Boehmer said.
“It does reduce the cost of picking up litter and the cost is quite small,” Boehmer said. “If you get a $10 meal that comes in a to-go container, the additional cost would be less than 1% of that added to your total cost.”
The bill also empowers the Litter Control and Recycling Fund Advisory Board, which works to eliminate littering while encouraging recycling, to help oversee a newly established Litter Control and Recycling Fund. Any collected civil penalties will go directly into the fund. The advisory board’s proposed additional responsibilities include raising public awareness on the dangers of polystyrene and promoting alternatives to plastic foam containers.
Maine and Maryland have passed similar bills to ban polystyrene food service containers in 2019. Several states, such as Oregon, Montana, and New Jersey, have introduced such legislation in the past year.
Must-See RVA! — Cokesbury Building
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
- 415 East Grace Street
- Built, 1921
- Architects, Carneal & Johnston
Once there was this trendy little bookstore in the heart of the downtown shopping district.
This building was built for the Methodist Publishing House and designed by Garnett & Johnston. Its design clearly is related to the Mosby Store at the corner of Jefferson and Broad Streets, by Starrett & Van Vleck.
That design was, in turn, related to McKim, Mead & White’s Gorham Building in New York, a modernized version of an Italianate palazzo with an arcade at the base of the building and a heavy projecting cornice at the roof.
This design was felt to be a particularly successful blending of traditional and modern features, most appropriate for a modern shop.
The Cokesbury Building is designed carefully and well detailed. The first floor arcade was glazed fully, but is now closed partially.
The interior vaulted ceilings have been removed, but the building is otherwise well preserved. The reason for the popularity of this building type is seen easily. It is simple, dignified and impressive. [ADR]
The Cokesbury Building, with the Cokesbury Bookstore on the first floor, was an outgrowth of the Methodist Episcopal Book Concern. Created in 1789, this organization was established to religious materials for the Methodist church. It would eventually expand to include books and religious supplies and rebranded as the Cokesbury Press in 1925. By 2012, there would be 57 Cokesbury Book Stores nationwide, one of which used to be on Grace Street.
But in that same year, Cokesbury announced the closure of their brick-and-mortar stores, and today they’re online only. The Grace Street location had long been abandoned by that point, having relocated to Tuckernuck Square shopping center in 1992. A loss, really. They were more than just religious books and often had unusual or hard to find titles, back in the days before Amazon.
Today, it’s the Cokesbury Building Apartments.
(Cokesbury Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert Winthrop. 1982.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
Suspects Sought in Credit Card Fraud
Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the individuals in the attached photo, who are suspected of using a stolen credit to make fraudulent purchases last week.
On Monday, March 30, the victim was notified that their card had been used at the Farm Fresh located in the 2300 block of East Main Street. Surveillance footage shows two females buying food and cigarettes worth over $400 with the victim’s card. They were last seen leaving the store in a silver convertible with a black top. A photo of the vehicle is attached.
Detectives determined the card was also used at the McDonald’s located in the 1800 block of East Broad Street.
Anyone with information about the identity of these suspects is asked to call First Precinct Detective J. Mitchell at (804) 646-0569 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.
Billy Jack’s Shack Closing for Good
Unfortunately, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we’ll be writing about a restaurant not being able to re-open.
Billy Jack’s Shack the local spin-off of the Westend’s Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint at 5810 Grove Ave. will not survive the economic downturn of COVID-19. According to this Richmond BizSense.com article on the closure, Jack Brown’s is doing alright for now considering the situation.
Owners Jason Owenby, Mike Sabin, and Aaron Ludwig made the announcement on Billy Jack’s Shack Facebook.
It is with heavy hearts that we make the unfortunate announcement that Billy Jack’s RVA will be closing down permanently. While our time here was brief, the relationships and memories we’ve made are eternal. We appreciate everything that y’all have done for us, especially those of you in the Bone Club. These are difficult times for everyone involved and if you would like to support some of our staff who are now facing employment uncertainty, please feel free to donate at the link below. We can not properly express how much this decision pains us and how bad we are going to miss everyone. Please message with any further questions and stay tuned to our Instagram page for some trips down memory lane