Maryland Passes Ban on Expanded Polystyrene Foam Food Containers
Becomes First to Enact Statewide Legislation
April 4, 2019
Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 407-361-1009
ANNAPOLIS, MD — On Wednesday the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation banning expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, used primarily to package or serve food. EPS foam is an insidious pollutant because it does not biodegrade, takes up 40 percent more space by volume in our landfills, and is a major source of litter in Maryland’s communities and waterways.
The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) and Senator Cheryl (D-17), makes Maryland the first state to ban EPS foam food service products in the United States. It bans the use of EPS foam cups, plates, and containers for packaging food and beverages, as well as the retail sale of these products, starting in July 2020. Products packaged before receipt by a food service business, or foam used to package raw meat, poultry or seafood is allowed.
“Decisive action to address trash pollution is increasingly urgent. With the passage of a statewide ban on EPS foam food containers, our elected officials voted in support of a cleaner Maryland for all,” said Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland (TFMD). “We urge Governor Hogan to sign this landmark legislation.”
Compared to other types of trash pollution, EPS foam is more problematic when littered. It breaks into smaller pieces more easily and more quickly, rendering it an increasingly difficult type of litter to fully clean up. Once in our waterways, these microplastic pieces are ingested by marine life, and find their way into water sources and consumer products.
“I’m thrilled to see Maryland be a leader in the fight to end our reliance on single-use plastics that are polluting our state, country, and world,” said Delegate Brooke Lierman. “The health of the Chesapeake Bay, our waterways, our neighborhoods, and our children’s future depends on our willingness to do the hard work of cleaning the mess that we inherited and created.”
Speaker of the House, Michael E. Busch said, “I’m proud that Maryland has become the first state in the country to become foam free. Maryland is continuing to lead the way on reducing litter and cleaning our waterways.”
The bill creates consistency across the state, where a number of local jurisdictions had previously passed bans on foam food service products, and sends a strong signal to Marylanders about the state’s commitment to clean, preserve and protect our natural resources.
“While over half of our residents are currently covered by local bans, pollution does not acknowledge county lines,” said Senator Cheryl Kagan. “It’s gratifying to see Maryland lead on environmental policy as the first to enact a statewide ban on expanded polystyrene foam.”
This is the third year the bill came before the Maryland General Assembly. The bill passed the House 100-37 and 31-13 in the Senate with bipartisan support.
“Maryland is once again leading the way on important legislation to protect our communities and our waterways,” said Karla Raettig, Executive Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters. “We are grateful for all our champions in the Maryland General Assembly for passing this landmark bill, especially Delegate Brooke Lierman and Senator Cheryl Kagan who have been stalwart leaders on this legislation.”
Foam comprises roughly 35 percent of the total garbage collected at cleanup events throughout Maryland. During a Trash Free Maryland cleanup in Baltimore last September, volunteers collected nearly 1,700 pieces of foam in two hours.
“Marylanders understand the importance of protecting our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club. “Banning single-use foam containers is a critical step towards tackling the growing problem of plastics pollution.”
Trash Free Maryland, founded in 2010, is a nonprofit organization working to create systemic change to prevent trash pollution in Maryland’s neighborhoods and waterways. We are leading advocate for public policies and initiatives to reduce trash pollution in the state. We work toward a state of Maryland that is free of trash, debris, and litter, where communities, public spaces, and waterways are safe, healthy, and support economic viability. As a regional leader, we are turned to by schools, business and industry, local government, and community groups on trash pollution initiatives and outreach to elevate litter as an equity and quality of life issue.