Virginia is delaying its ban on expanded polystyrene to-go containers for five years, pushing implementation back to at least 2028 under a plan favored by the state's Republican governor.
State legislators originally adopted the EPS ban in restaurants in 2021. It was supposed to start July 1, 2023, for restaurants with 20 or more locations and July 1, 2025, for small businesses.
Now, restaurants with 20 or more locations have until 2028 and smaller businesses have until 2030 to phase out EPS to-go containers.
A change in state politics — Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor in November, turning out Democrats who had controlled the office for eight years — led to the delay.
Robert Melvin, director of government affairs for Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, said businesses and Youngkin support language in the 2022 state budget delaying the ban because alternative containers can be more expensive than polystyrene.
"We've always been of the impression that each restaurant should make the determination what to-go containers they want to offer to customers," Melvin said. "It does do a great job of keeping hot food hot and cold food cold; that [means] less food is thrown away."
Melvin also stated that supply chain issues meant that shipping of materials to restaurants and other companies have taken longer than usual.
A longer deadline would give manufacturers of alternative materials time to increase production, he said.
"It was something that we had a lot of concerns with, especially as we've seen a significant increase in carryout meals from restaurants, especially during the pandemic," Melvin said.
A supporter of the original ban, Clean Virginia Waterways, was disappointed in the change.