DART’s Departure not about Economics, but Ego 

DART Inc makes hundreds of plastic-based products, from the famous Red Solo Cup to takeout food containers, but it seems there real specialty is manufacturing excuses and scapegoats. Earlier this year, when announcing the closure of a warehouse in Havre De Grace, DART attempted to pin the blame on Maryland’s newly enacted ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers.

This explanation doesn’t even stand up to a basic fact check. But don’t take our word for it, just look at what DART has said. DART has admitted in numerous public hearings that it does not manufacture foam products at any of their facilities in Maryland. And if that wasn’t convincing enough, the recent legislation does not prohibit DART’s ability to store foam products at its warehouses.

TFMD Foam_Baltimore_April2019_4Given that they manufacture both foam and the alternative products – the latter of which are manufactured in state – it stands to reason that they could actually benefit from the enactment of this legislation, and that those benefits would extend to Maryland’s economy by extension.

This law presented an opportunity for Dart to seize, not to shun.

The ban on EPS foam products  was the right move for Maryland’s environment and its economy. We know that the cost of foam products was artificially low because they did not account for the true life cycle costs of cleanup, the impact on marine life, and the toxic microplastic foam particles that end up in our seafood, water sources, and countless other items Marylanders eat and drink.

And it also ignores the cost to other major industries in Maryland that provide employment and revenue, such as tourism, recreation, and watermen/women who rely on healthy, sustainable fisheries for their livelihood.

While the world is grappling both with increasing pollution and reduced opportunities to divert material no longer accepted by China and others due to its low value or difficulty recycling, taking steps to eliminate products that are not readily recyclable is sound solid waste and fiscal management.

IMG_3183Only DART knows the real reasons they are closing their warehouse, but there is no question that blaming Maryland’s ban on EPS is politics, not economics. DART is falling back on a convenient trope of pitting jobs vs. the environment. Convenient, but false. We’re past due breaking down the false dichotomy of choosing the environment or economy to put first, because one can only exist with the other, and not the other way around. It’s not a virtuous endeavor to protect the vulnerable and finite resources we all require to live. It’s a responsibility, and the most important job to ensure the health of the ecosystems any economy needs.

As more and more companies confront their sustainability commitments and examine their operations to align with increasing urgency and public pressure to act rather than acknowledge, there’s now an opportunity to attract a business with an ethos better aligned with the intent of this legislation: one that will invest in Maryland not just by occupying space, selling goods, and providing jobs, but by what they don’t contribute to in terms of destruction of our natural resources and the unintended impacts of pollution well beyond being unsightly.

We’re grateful for the leadership of the Maryland House and Senate on this legislation; for having the foresight to stem the tide of one of the most harmful types of plastic pollution, and setting an example that other states and jurisdictions have since followed.

And for the record, Maryland’s legislature was the first to pass a statewide ban on foam food products, and it will be the first to take effect next July.

Let’s hope Delaware is next.

Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director, Trash Free Maryland
Chuck Porcari, Interim Executive Director, Maryland League of Conservation Voters
Josh Tulkin, State Director, Maryland Sierra Club

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