From vermicelli bowls to crispy chicken, Pho Luca’s, a Vietnamese-owned Richmond restaurant, uses plastic foam containers to package takeout meals. That may soon change after the General Assembly recently passed a bill banning such packaging.
After negotiations on a Senate amendment, the House agreed in a 57-39 vote last week on an amendment to House Bill 1902, which bans nonprofits, local governments, and schools from using polystyrene takeout containers. The Senate passed the amended bill in a 24-15 vote.
“We’re just leveling the playing field,” said Del. Betsy B. Carr, D-Richmond, about the amendment. “So not only do restaurants, but nonprofits and schools will be subject to this ban in 2025.”
Food chains with 20 or more locations cannot package and dispense food in polystyrene containers as of July 2023. The remaining food vendors have until July 2025. Food vendors in violation of the ban can receive up to $50 in civil penalty each day of violation.
Carr said she is glad Virginia is taking the lead to curb plastic pollution and that the measure will “make our environment cleaner and safer for all of our citizens (by) not having styrofoam in the ditches and in the water and in the food that we consume.”
This is the second year the bill was sent to a conference committee. Last year’s negotiation resulted in a reenactment clause stipulating the bill couldn’t be enacted until it was approved again this year by the General Assembly.
The COVID-19 pandemic loomed over this year’s bill dispute as businesses shift to single-use packagings, such as polystyrene, to limit contamination.
Lawmakers skeptical of the polystyrene ban spoke out on the Senate floor, arguing the ban will hurt small businesses who rely on polystyrene foam containers, which are known for their cheaper cost.
“The places that give me these containers are the places that are struggling the most right now,” said Sen. Jen A. Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach.
The pandemic has financially impacted the restaurant industry. In 2020, Virginia’s food services sector lost more than 20% of its employees from 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Like many small businesses, Pho Luca’s has relied on polystyrene foam takeout packaging because it is affordable and functional.
Dominic Pham, the owner of the Pho Luca’s, said he has been in contact with several vendors that sell polystyrene alternatives, but it has been a challenge for Pham to find suitable alternatives.
Pho Luca’s currently uses plastic foam containers that cost about a nickel per container, Pham said. The alternatives will cost about 55 cents more. However, Pham said he is willing to make the change, recognizing that polystyrene containers are detrimental to the environment.
Pham said he distributed surveys to consumers on the possibility of raising prices to offset the cost of polystyrene alternatives. The results were overwhelmingly positive.
“Even if we have to upcharge them a dollar for the recyclable, reusable containers, people (are) happy to do that, they don’t mind,” Pham said.
The use of plastic foam containers has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states and cities have reversed or delayed restrictions and bans on single-use plastics since April 2020, according to a USA Today report.
The pandemic also has resulted in an increase in single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and personal protective equipment. A 2020 report in the Environmental Science & Technology journal estimated plastic packaging to increase 14% as consumers seek out prepackaged items due to sanitary concerns.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic sparked renewed interest in single-use plastics, environmental organizations and businesses have spoken against the use of plastic foam containers. Polystyrene biodegrades slowly and rarely can be recycled, posing a risk to wildlife and human health, according to Environment Virginia.
MOM’s Organic Market, a mid-Atlantic grocery chain, has used compostable containers and cups since 2005.
“I think that it’s the right thing to do for the environment, for communities, for our residents,” said Alexandra DySard, the grocery chain’s environment, and partnership manager.
DySard said purchasing compostable takeout containers instead of polystyrene foam containers has not financially hurt the chain. She said using a plastic lid that can be recycled locally is a better alternative than using polystyrene foam.
Polystyrene alternatives will become more affordable and accessible the more businesses use those products, DySard said.
“If it’s a statewide change, that’s kind of the best-case scenario because everybody makes the change at once,” Dysard said. “And it’s driving demand for the product up and costs down.”
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk. If signed, Virginia will join states such as Maryland and Maine to ban polystyrene foam containers.
By David Tran
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
Front Royal man charged for sexual solicitation of underage victims
On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Front Royal Police detectives initiated an investigation regarding the solicitation of minors in the Warren County/Front Royal area. Detectives started a proactive approach to apprehend individuals soliciting underage victims for sexual purposes.
An undercover operation ensued, and an adult male began soliciting one of our detectives who he believed to be an underage female for photographs and sexually explicit material. The adult male suspect sent sexually explicit materials to the detective. The initial conversation was unsolicited and started by the offender in this case.
Police identified the suspect as 20-year-old Front Royal resident, Daniel Currence. Currence was arrested on 04/16/2021 and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail. Currence was ordered to be held on a $5,000 secured bond with a scheduled court date of May 20, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
The Front Royal Police Department is an active member of the Northern Virginia/DC Metro (NOVA/DC) Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Virginia State Police. We request anyone with information regarding the exploitation of a minor to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virginia Beer Museum and Shae Parker celebrate in-house Aries birthdays
Due to a rash of owner-staff April birthdays over the past week, on Saturday, April 17, Shae Parker headlined an “Aries Birthday Celebration” at the Virginia Beer Museum in Historic Downtown Front Royal. Parker, also an April birthday, of the River Driven band performed three solo sets, 24 songs in all, of original material.
Parker, proprietor of Hanna Signs in town, also produced the event’s very late-1960’s psychedelic-era themed poster that may have led some of the “more mature” attendees into time-space continuum flashbacks to the glory days of the “English Invasion” and Haight Ashbury-centered classic rock & roll they grew up with.
So, Happy Birthday, David (April 14), Jeremy (April 17), Derek (April 19) and Shae (April 14), from this reporter (April 17).
And always remember, Aries, numero uno – the rest will always be followers of the Ram along the celestial path of the zodiac; and whose ruling planet, Mars, as of April 19, 2021, has the first man-made flying object hovering around the surface of another planet as mankind explores for signs of past or present life, and potential sites for future human exploration and colonization on the red planet.
Demonstrators seek dialogue on national incidents of excessive police force against people of color
Royal Examiner spoke to event organizer Laura Cascada of Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites about the message approximately 25 sign-bearing people gathered to make at noon on Saturday, April 17, in front of the Warren County Courthouse grounds. Cascada explained that while the presence of the Confederate soldier’s statue at the courthouse remains an organizational concern, equal justice and treatment under the law was the focus of Saturday’s peaceful demonstration, not statues.
“We are out here to speak up for black lives and speak up against injustice and police brutality against black people and other people of color. And we are speaking out in the wake of Dante Wright’s murder (Minnesota officer mistakes her gun for taser during a traffic stop) and amidst George Floyd’s ongoing murder trial (of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin) and just to bring this message close to home and let our community know this is not okay, and we need to end this violence.”
That message comes amidst, not only the two specific police officer killings of black men cited but an ongoing rash of officer-involved incidents, including in the Tidewater region of Virginia (Windsor), where undue, seemingly excessive force has been initiated against people of color even during traffic stops from which no charges were forthcoming.
As to the choice of a location for the April 17 civil rights demonstration under the gaze of the nearby Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse grounds, Cascada explained:
“As many know, this was the site of controversy last fall over the long-standing (placed 1911) Confederate Monument we have here, which nearly a quarter of the county actually voted to remove or replace to another location. And even though the statue still stands – it’s a great space to open this dialogue and talk about and reflect on our long history of oppression here in Virginia and in Warren County … and today we’re just out here opening the dialogue in a peaceful, positive and uplifting way, talking about valuing black lives and ending the violence.”
In addition to some passing motorists’ apparent honks of support, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Unites demonstration drew one familiar counter-demonstrator, Gary Kushner who faced off with his own signage across East Main Street from the equal treatment under the law demonstrators.
Randolph-Macon Academy 7th grader wins Mathcounts Chapter Invitational, 2nd place
Randolph-Macon Academy (RMA) student Angelina Vincent, a seventh grader, won second place for the Mathcounts Chapter this year. This will be the second time that Angelina has participated, where she advanced to the state competition in Richmond, Virginia, twice!
Angelina credits her family, the RMA students and faculty, and mentor Coach Mackey for all of their support. When asked for parting words, she shared, “Continue to take intellectual risk, and go beyond your comfort zone. Failure is a part of life, and it is important to learn and grow from it.”
Outside of school, Angelina is an avid runner, swimmer and volleyball player. Prior to RMA, Angelina was a student at Stanford Online High School last semester. She is very happy to return to RMA and see all of her teachers and friends again.
Physical therapist assistant program will be offered at Luray-Page County Center this fall
LFCC is excited to announce a new degree being offered at the Luray-Page County Center this fall – Associate of Applied Science, Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), pending accreditation in coming weeks.
Applications are being accepted from now until May 15. The college is hosting a virtual information session on the degree at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 27.
Physical therapist assistants provide hands-on care and treatment under the direction of a physical therapist, who conducts the patient evaluation and writes the treatment plan.
“There are four times the number of assistants needed as there are physical therapists,” says Dr. Rekha Parameswaran, the PTA program’s site coordinator and a doctor of physical therapy. “It is a challenging degree program, but leads to a very rewarding and lucrative career in healthcare.”
The median salary for PTAs is more than $60,000 a year. PTAs work with patients of all ages in hospitals, long-term care facilities, patients’ homes, outpatient clinics and schools.
The college is partnering with Germanna Community College to offer the PTA degree. Lectures will be distance taught from GCC with Dr. Parameswaran serving as a hands-on instructor with LFCC students the entire time. She will also lead labs for the students multiple times a week at Page Memorial Hospital.
Among the classes students will take are anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, psychological aspects of therapy, musculoskeletal structure and function, therapeutic procedures, medical reporting and pathological conditions.
The number of jobs for PTAs is expected to increase by 26 percent between 2018 and 2028. Medicare will start providing PTAs to at-home patients, said LFCC Director of Health Professions Kristina Simpson.
“There is definitely a push for getting more PTAs on the ground,” Director Simpson said. “Page Memorial Hospital has indicated there is a need for physical rehabilitation in this region.”
While PTAs can go right into the workforce upon receiving their associate degree, to become a physical therapist requires seven years of higher education, according to Dr. Parameswaran, and up to 10 years to reach the doctoral level.
Students’ degrees will be awarded by GCC, which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). LFCC’s program is currently awaiting approval by CAPTE in spring 2021.
For more information about the program and to get a link to the April 27th information session, visit lfcc.edu/PTA.
June opening of downtown spay/neuter clinic announced; Humane Society of Warren County sets financial records despite pandemic
The Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) will open its new downtown clinic in early June, ahead, way ahead, of its original schedule, it was announced at the organization’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 13.
With re-modeling construction well underway at its 840-B John Marshall Highway location on the town’s southeast side headed toward Linden, and hiring Martinsburg, West Virginia veterinarian Dr. Alicia Pownall that same afternoon, HSWC Executive Director Meghan Bowers said the clinic should be a “go” by June, offering low cost spay/neuter services for local dog and cat owners with difficulty affording the procedures.
“I’m aiming at June 1, but it may be a little later,” Bowers said in a telephone interview Wednesday. She said Pownall was currently working at the Inwood Animal Center, W. Va., and was a 2019 graduate in veterinary medicine from Mississippi State University. Other staff members would include a veterinary technician and office manager.
At an initial cost of $125,000 the Linda R. Lorber Campus Clinic is named for a principal donor. Linda Lorber came to live in Front Royal in 2004, “departing for the beach (in Delaware)” eight years later with her now 29-year-old cat Louie. She jump-started the fundraising for the clinic with a $70,000 donation, explaining that as a pet owner – she also owned a dog named Grizzle while living in Front Royal – she realized there were many pet lovers who found it difficult to pay the animals’ upkeep and that the clinic would help those out who needed it.
Bowers also sees the clinic as being vital in the HSWC’s efforts to curtail the numbers of stray and feral cats, an increasing problem in Warren County.
At the meeting, Treasurer Michelle Kosiorek reported “a fantastic year,” marked by a record gross income of $865,355 and expenses amounting to $670,851, carrying forward a net income of $194,503.
Detailing the past year’s income – the total includes a $352,000 grant from Warren County – HSWC president Ellen Aders said corporate sponsorships totaling $71,900 were the “best of all years despite the pandemic” as she read off other major details including grants, mostly from foundations, totaling $126,200; more than $189,000 in mostly individual donations (“Save the Paws Alliance”), and $71,927 from fundraising events such as the recent “Polar Plunge” ($13,116);” Holiday Appeal” ($23,065); “Barks & Bags” ($20,546); and a summer “yard sale” ($6,539).
Other monies to benefit the occupants of the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter came from the HSWC Calendar sales ($1,320); Tales & Ales ($5,899); Paws for a Cause ($1,439); and Yappy Hour donations at ViNoVa restaurant on Main Street amounted to $4,549 during the year. Animal bank collection boxes seen on store and other business counters around town collected $3,295 last year.
Bowers paid tribute to the work of volunteers, singling out Frank Maggiore, and complimenting the work of her “leadership team”, Wagner Shelter Manager Kayla Wines, Office Manager Susan Jeffery; Kennel Manager Marie Butler; Volunteer Coordinator Sue Wagoner; and Tiffany Rothgeb, who handles guest relations.
Between them and shelter staff, 487 adoptions were successfully completed and 22 foster families helped 148 cats and 11 dogs. Also, staff worked two free drive-thru food distributions for 194 pets. At a cost of $11,650, the shelter provided veterinary services for pets suffering maladies from dental care, diabetes, ear and eye surgery, cancer, and a leg amputation.
Eighty-five cats were spayed or neutered in 2020.
Most importantly, HSWC retained its coveted “no kill” status last year!
Also at the annual meeting, board members Katrina Meade, Amy Cavalier and Michelle Kosiorek were re-elected by acclamation.