A bill directing public schools and colleges in New Jersey to stop selling food and beverages in polystyrene packaging has taken a first step in the Legislature.

Sandra Meola, policy director for New York-New Jersey Baykeeper, said polystyrene plates, cups, trays and containers are used for minutes while eating, then persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

“Polystyrene is a commonly chosen material at public schools, but it is associated with seriously dangerous public health and environmental consequences that we just don’t have the time to deal with any more,” Meola said

Henry Gajda, a public policy association for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, said the plastic takes 500 years to biodegrade and accumulates in the food chain and waterways. He said 25 billion polystyrene cups are used a year in the United States, accounting for 20 percent to 30 percent of landfill composition.

“This is an important first step in the right direction for reducing our waste stream and limiting land, water and air pollution within and surrounding our state, and ultimately protecting the health of our students and children,” Gajda said.

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