Drinking from a reusable coffee cup, a Montana state lawmaker on Tuesday told a legislative committee why it's in the best interest for the health of residents and the environment to phase out the use of Styrofoam containers by restaurants and grocery stores. 

By 2020 restaurants could not serve food or drinks in polystyrene foam containers for consumption on-site under House Bill 657, carried by Rep. Shane Morigeau, D-Missoula. The following year, restaurants could not sell pre-packaged or to-go food in polystyrene foam containers. By 2022 a food packager could not package meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene foam containers.

The House Business and Labor Committee did not take action on the bill Tuesday.

Those who spoke in support of the bill spoke to health and environmental concerns surrounding Styrofoam.

"Montana should move away from the use of Styrofoam and look for ways to protect human health," said Tucker Finley, with Montana Public Interest Research Group.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services lists styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

In opposition to the bill, Brad Griffin, representing the Montana Retail Association and Montana Restaurant Association, said Styrofoam has some benefits.

Styrofoam is impenetrable to moisture, delays spoilage, has superior cushioning, is lightweight and inexpensive to ship and use, Griffin said.

Griffin said some restaurants around the stay are shifting to other packing, but grocery stores have concerns about what else they would use to package cut meat.

"We're not opposed to having this conversation," he said. "It goes need some tweaks to differentiate between the restaurant and the retail grocery industry."

Morigeau said he brought the bill because of the effects Styrofoam can have on Montana's people and environment.

"Montana deserves to have a healthy and clean environment and I think this is a simple step."


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