Press Release: Maryland Moves One Step Closer to Banning Harmful Foam Food Containers

Senate Passes SB285
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Contact:  Doug Jackson, 202.495.3045 or doug.jackson@sierraclub.org

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Today, Maryland moved one step closer to becoming the first state to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers, as the State Senate passed a bill that would ban restaurants, grocery stores, and other food providers from using foam food containers because of their harmful impact on the environment. The bill also bans the retail sale of these products. The bill passed 34-13, with bi-partisan support.

Often incorrectly referred to as Styrofoam(TM), the lightweight EPS foam food containers are carried by wind and runoff into waterways, where they break into small beads and absorb toxins as they are carried into the Chesapeake Bay and ultimately the oceans. These toxic microplastics, which are impossible to clean up, are mistaken for food by fish and marine mammals, with fatal results.

EPS foam food containers that are not littered enter the waste stream and are not compostable or recyclable in an economically sustainable way, adding to materials that cannot be diverted from the State’s landfills and incinerators. This legislation will help Maryland reach its goal of diverting 85% of waste by reduction, reuse, and recycling by 2040.

Fortunately, there are many widely available and affordable alternatives to foam food containers, many of them manufactured in Maryland. The State’s two largest counties — Montgomery and Prince George’s — have already made the transition with no disruption and high compliance rates. Similar local bans in Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis and the City of Baltimore are set to go into effect in the next year. The Senate bill (SB285), sponsored by Sen. Cheryl Kagan, and its sister bill in the House of Delegates (HB109), sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman, would extend the ban statewide in mid-2020.

In response, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Director Josh Tulkin released the following statement:

“Maryland’s rivers, waterways, and beaches are too important to be polluted by foam food containers and microplastics. We applaud the Maryland Senate for taking this important step toward protecting our tourism economy and water by banning foam food containers. Some of our cities and counties have already successfully passed their own bans, and we look forward to seeing these protections extended to the entire state.”

Angela Haren, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper for Blue Water Baltimore said:

“Pollution doesn’t stop at political boundaries, and our waterways carry trash from way up stream into the Bay. A statewide ban on EPS foam food containers is critical to protecting the health of our environment.”

Jodi Rose, Executive Director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake said:

“God calls us to continually improve our behaviors and be open to new ways of doing things that are more respectful of the whole web of life. This new ban will teach all Marylanders new ways of living lightly on the Earth so that we are respectful of the resources we share with each other and the next generation.”

Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland, said:

“Foam litter is particularly hazardous to our waterways and wildlife. Eliminating foam food service products will change the dynamic of our pollution challenge, and protect our marine environments and the industries reliant on them. We commend the Senate for their leadership. ”

Karla Raettig, Executive Director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said:

“This vote moves Maryland one step closer to being a national leader on addressing among the largest contributors to trash in our waterways. We applaud the Senate for taking this action and look forward to the House following suit.”

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