A funeral for a friend — ‘Mr. Styrofoam’

Nassau County bans plastic foam


Plastic foam is officially banned in Nassau County. County Executive, Laura Curran signed it into law on June 11 at Jeremy’s Ale House in Freeport. Jeremy’s on the Nautical Mile is known for its iconic 32-ounce foam cup of beer that the restaurant/bar has been using for 49 years.

Before the signing of the bill, Jeremy’s held a mock open casket funeral for “Mr. Styrofoam” — a doll made out of plastic foam food trays and cups. Jeremy Holin, the owner of Jeremy’s Ale House, gave a eulogy.

“We’re gathered here for a dear friend. Before the county executive signs this, I’d like to say, ‘Good-bye Mr. Styrofoam, we’ll all miss you’ — except for them,” Holin said with a laugh as he pointed at the members of a number of Long Island environmental groups including Operation S.P.L.A.S.H.

After Curran signed the bill, the bar hosted a repass luncheon of finger foods and drinks to toast to the new law.

“Today is a sad day,” Curran said. “But in another way, it’s a great day for our island, for our planet and it’s a great day for Nassau County.”

Last month the Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to adopt the legislation, which, Legislators Debra Mulé, a Democrat from Freeport, Denise Ford, a Republican from Long Beach and Laura Schaefer, a Republican from Garden City co-sponsored.

“I am hopeful that today’s action reflects a major step forward,” Mulé said. “in our efforts to encourage Nassau County residents to move beyond wasteful single-use products and embrace sustainable alternatives.”

On Long Island, the plastic foam has been known to clog the waterways and has increased the cost of waste disposal, Curran explained. Plastic foam has classified as a carcinogen and non-biodegradable. Recycling plastic foam is not practical and though it is broken into small pieces, it becomes harder to clean up, officials said. The plastic foam’s synthetic chemicals are hazardous waste that causes environmental damage. It also kills marine life that accidentally eats it.

According to Rob Weltner, the executive director of Operation S.P.L.A.S.H., plastic foam is the most common product cleanup boat crews fish out of the bays on a regular basis.

“We’re very happy that it was a unanimous decision to ban plastic foam,” Weltner said. “We’ve been trying to put ourselves “out of business’ for 29 years and this will help alleviate some the trash out in the bay.”

Businesses will have until Jan. 1, 2020 to use up their current stock of plastic foam and transfer into an alternative option. Losing the plastic foam isn’t going to affect business or the massive 32-ounce beer served at Jeremy’s. Holin’s second location in South Street Seaport in Manhattan has already implemented a plastic cup usage after New York City banned plastic foam this year.

“We have our backup plan — plastic,” said Jason Holin, Jeremy’s son, “We’ll see the county executive in a couple of years when she bans plastic.”

Solemn classical music played as regulars at Jeremy’s sipped beer out of their massive white cups inscribed with “RIP” on them in honor of the new ban. However, according to Jeremy, the bar will use what’s left of their plastic foam cups through the summer and switch over to 32-ounce plastic cups. Jason also said the 32-ounce cups would still be served in plastic instead of plastic foam.

In January 2020, any business violating the law will be issued fines from the Office of Consumer Affairs — fines for a first offense are up to $500, second offenses up to $1000 and third or more offenses up to $2500. The money from those funds will provide for environmental investigation and cleanup of county properties, according to officials.