Two students from Jonathan Law High School in Milford provided public testimony at an Environment Committee public hearing in support of legislation introduced by State Senator James Maroney (D-Milford) to ban Styrofoam trays from all schools.
If enacted Senate Bill 229, “An act prohibiting the use of Styrofoam trays in Connecticut schools,” will go into effect no later than Oct. 1, 2019. Styrofoam, the brand name for expanded polystyrene, is not biodegradable and can wreak havoc on animals and sea life that might confuse the harmful material for food or shelter. Cities and states across the nation are banning expanded polystyrene for its impact on people and the environment.
The harmful material is already banned in the household of Ming-May Hu, one of the students who provided public testimony. She is a senior at Jonathan Law High School and said expanded polystyrene is not used in her house.
“At my house my mom always said, ‘don’t eat out of Styrofoam, that’s not safe for you,’ ” said Hu. “And I would think, well we eat off Styrofoam every single day at school. We have hot lunch off that and greasy food and the chemicals can easily leach into our food, which is so unhealthy for us. There are no studies on the long-term impact, so why risk the health of students when there are safer alternatives?”
Kruttika Gopal, who also provided testimony and is a senior at Law, agrees and said schools should explore alternatives such as paper or compostable cardboard trays, since they are biodegradable and less harmful. She said expanded polystyrene must be banned from all schools as some students are immediately exposed to it the moment they enter the school system.
“Growing up we’ve seen Styrofoam in the Milford Public School system our entire lives and we never really used to think much of it when we were young,” said Gopal. “As we grew older, we learned about the harmful effects it has on the environment and the chemicals it has that can hurt us as students.”
Gopal and Hu came to Sen. Maroney with the concept for this legislation. He agrees these trays should be removed from our schools. He applauded the two students for their passion and knowledge around this issue and their courage to create awareness around it.
“Ming-May Hu and Kruttika Gopal, two seniors at Jonathan Law High School of Milford, came to me with this proposal. I thank them for submitting testimony and I share their concern over continuing to introduce this harmful material into our schools and ecosystem,” said Sen. Maroney. “There are safer, eco-friendly alternatives and Connecticut should join other states that have adopted those alternatives and turned away from harmful Styrofoam trays.”
Hu and Gopal have been instrumental in bringing this issue to Sen. Maroney and are actively learning the ins-and-outs of local and state politics and policy-making thanks to Sen. Maroney and Milford Mayor Ben Blake. Maroney and Blake run an internship program which encourages young people to connect with lawmakers in order to let their voices be heard and provides instructions for how to do so.
“I commend these students for getting involved in their government and I applaud their bravery to sit before the committee and provide public testimony,” said Sen. Maroney. “We want to encourage our youth in district and the state to speak out when they notice an issue that needs to be addressed, much like Styrofoam trays in our schools.”
The internship meets twice monthly on Sundays. They will meet next on March 24.