Baltimore Earth Week Events!

It’s our favorite month here at Trash Free Maryland: Earth Month! Check out the PDF below to learn of the fun Earth Week Events happening all around Baltimore this month.

 

Calendar of Earth Events: Baltimore

Join us in April to Clean Up Litter

Slide2

Sign Up to Pick up

This April, join Marylanders across the state in the 30 Days of Picking Up Litter Challenge! Use each day of the month as an opportunity to help rid our communities and ecosystems of trash, and help inspire neighbors and colleagues to pick-up and fight litter any time of the year. This challenge is an easy way for friends, colleagues and families to come together, consider the impacts of our waste, and play a direct role in immediate change.

Short term progress is often the only way to achieve long-term, sustained change. From our experience, investing time and energy into cleaning your community often inspires one to get more involved in preventing litter, reducing waste, and rethinking what we consume and discard on a daily basis.

Share that you care

You can pledge your participation online, and share your involvement by snapping a picture, tagging @TrashFreeMaryland in your post(s) and using #30daysofpickinguplitter. We’re willing to bet that the more people are witnessing others in person or via social media making a small act for a better world, they will then feel inspired to take action!

One last thing

After the challenge ends, we’ll send a brief questionnaire to gather insight into your experience to inform our future legislative priorities, programmatic initiatives, and educational resources and outreach. We’ll ask things like:

  • What types of litter did you see the most of?
  • Where all did you cleanup: around your home, your neighborhood, your workplace, while doing something recreational?
  • Did participating change your perspective on litter and how to tackle this issue?

Keep these in mind, and we hope you’ll take just a few moments to provide some feedback when 30 days have come and gone!

Questions or comments? Please feel free to reach out to info@trashfreemaryland.org!

The #30Daysofpickinguplitter hashtag and challenge was an idea of Baltimore City resident, Eli Pousson. He challenged himself in April 2017 to pick a little each day and share it via social media, while encouraging others to join him.

Statewide EPS Foam Ban Explodes into Millions of Tiny Pieces Upon Death in the MD General Assembly

The 2018 session for the Maryland General Assembly has been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster, and it’s not over yet. While almost all of our environmental bills have died this session, a few remain. Unfortunately, not all bills die the same. The statewide ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food packaging died a particularly tragic death. House Bill 538 and Senate Bill 651, sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman (D-46) and Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) respectively, were introduced again this legislative session after many lessons learned from last year. The primary difference between the legislation this year in comparison to last year is that packing peanuts were removed from the ban, and schools and institutions were added. This was to promote consistency among existing legislation in the state, and to find compromises with other legislators.

HB 538 was jointly assigned to the Environment and Transportation Committee and the Economic Matters Committee. SB 651 was jointly assigned to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee. A hearing for HB 538 was held on February 21st and one for SB 651 on February 27th, both of which went well. Following the Senate hearing, the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voted on March 8th to give SB 651 a favorable report, sending it to the Finance committee to vote. On March 9th, prior to a vote from the primary committee (Environment and Transportation) – the House Economic Matters Committee gave HB 538 an unfavorable report. Both motions to give SB 651 an unfavorable and then favorable report died in the Senate Finance Committee on March 16th, rendering the bill dead for this legislative session.

We learned so much this session and will be even better prepared for next year. And without doubt we have made considerable progress this year, both with seeing Baltimore City pass an EPS foam bill, as well as the vibrant, diverse and visible support for policy on this issue at the state level that ensured litter was on the minds of our legislators. But that does not mean we are not frustrated about the ultimate fate of this bill, the least of which being because of the nature of its death.  When we look back objectively: three out of the four committees this bill was assigned to took a vote, and that was no easy feat. We also knew that with it being an election year, it was going to be hard to pass what has been a controversial bill in the past. We laid a strong and critical foundation for other jurisdictions to model our framework, as well as to keep fighting at the state level with a resilient coalition of partners invested in this issue.

Below are some of the key things we reinforced, clarified or learned throughout this campaign:

  1. Dart does not manufacture EPS foam in the state of Maryland. There are three Dart facilities in the state: two distribution centers and one manufacturing facility. That manufacturing facility only manufactures the alternative containers, and we clarified that distribution to entities in states outside of Maryland would not be impacted by this bill.
  2. Dart could potentially see an increase in jobs due to a statewide ban, since they have become the preferred provider of alternative containers in jurisdictions that already have a ban, and it is confirmed they produce these items in state.
  3. As indicated by this chart, the alternative containers supplied by Dart are comparable in cost to EPS foam. Both based on data from jurisdictions that have passed similar bans, as well as supply/demand economics, we stand to reason that this cost differential would diminish and ultimately neutralize over time.
  4. When we talk about EPS foam, people often say that it only makes up 1-2% of municipal solid waste. That is by weight, however, and in reality, foam is about 10-40% of our waste stream by volume
  5. Montgomery County Schools has offered to be a purchasing agent for smaller school districts so they can get the same low price for alternative trays.
  6. MOM’s Organic Market has offered to set up a bulk purchasing cooperative to simplify the process and provide a cost share option on alternatives containers for small businesses needing to purchase a lower volume of containers.
  7. We received 120 petition signatures from businesses pledging their support of a ban. Those petition signatures came from businesses who have voluntarily phased out their usage of EPS foam, those that have begun phasing out, and those that still use foam but otherwise recognize the importance of this legislation.
  8. We received 12 individual letters of support from businesses who support a statewide ban.
  9. Most businesses aren’t using exclusively EPS foam in their restaurants;, they are using a variety of different materials, including the alternatives.Businesses that have locations in multiple jurisdictions find it cumbersome to navigate different laws and would prefer a statewide ban that promotes uniformity and consistency.
  10. EPS foam cannot be recycled at any of the state’s recycling centers because it is not economically viable to do so. Recycling centers get paid by the pound, and EPS foam is primarily air, as well as being a difficult commodity to recycle. EPS foam also absorbs the grease of the food it’s containing, rendering it nearly impossible to adequately clean and recycle back into raw material. Claims that FOOD SERVICE foam can be recycled, not just logistically, but technically, are not congruent with existing programs, technology, and systems present or pursuable in the state of Maryland
  11. Dart operates seven EPS foam drop off centers in Maryland, where residents can take their foam to be recycled by the company. Per our investigation, we learned that most of these drop off centers have signs indicating that they won’t take EPS foam food containers, or an employee who says they won’t recycle EPS foam food containers. These receptacles are intended to collect block foam, which was not included in the 2018 House and Senate versions of the bill
  12. Plastic lined paper cups, used for hot beverages, are being composted in 3 out of the 5 food waste composting facilities in the state of Maryland: in Prince George’s County, Caroline County, and Howard County.
  13. Infrastructure does exist to recycle plastic lined paper cups. It stands to reason that greater use of these products would tip the business case scale for expanding composting operations throughout the state, in alignment with Governor Hogan’s Zero Waste Plan.
  14. Despite some claims, most methane emissions coming from landfills is due to food waste, not paper cups – thus continued reasoning to ensure the state of Maryland develops a comprehensive composting strategy to ensure the diversion of these cups – not an option with foam – can be accomplished.
  15. Dunkin Donuts has pledged to phase out their usage of EPS foam by 2020.
  16. McDonalds has pledged to phase out their usage of EPS foam by the end of 2018.
  17. We continue to gather significant data showing the success of bans in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Takoma Park, Gaithersburg, and Washington DC.
  18. Days after the “death” of this bill, a scientific report was published citing the presence of microplastics within bottled water, with 93% of samples containing microplastics.

In this process and throughout this campaign, an extraordinary coalition made up of groups representing all impacted communities was formed. Despite our disappointment with its dramatic, and yet anti-climatic, demise this legislative session,  this coalition remains energized and committed to getting EPS foam not just out of Maryland’s neighborhoods and waterways, but our waste stream broadly.

Trash Free Maryland, alongside this diverse partner network, will continue to work with other city and county councils to pass and implement their own bans. We will expand our outreach to businesses all over the state to educate them on the benefits of switching away from EPS foam food packaging. We will not stop our work to educate the public on the harmful environmental impacts of EPS foam and encourage consumer participation in driving the market away from this problematic material. Throughout all of this, we will continue our work with the Maryland General Assembly to reintroduce this bill next legislative session.

And importantly, we are encouraged by the passing of a ban in Baltimore City this month and will use that motivation to drive our efforts over the next year, including supporting businesses throughout Baltimore as they work toward implementation. We may have been asking for a #FoamFreeMD for quite some time at this point, but we won’t stop until we are there. Join us as we remain vigilant and vigorous in this pursuit!

Trash Free Maryland Welcomes New Executive Director

Trash Free Maryland is pleased to announce its recent hire of Ashley
Van Stone as Executive Director. Within this role, Ms. Van Stone will have overall
strategic and operational responsibility for the organization. Her work will include
lobbying lawmakers, managing educational campaigns, building meaningful
partnerships in the community, working with donors and funders, andScreen Shot 2018-02-12 at 9.55.58 AM
collaborating with staff on critical programs.

“Ashley is just the kind of entrepreneurial leader Trash Free Maryland needs—an
inspiring professional with a varied background focused on sparking integrated and
sustainable social change,” said Board Chair Karla Raettig. “Ashley is poised to build
on the successes of this effective environmental organization while nurturing our
potential for growth.”

Ms. Van Stone, a Baltimore City resident, comes to Trash Free Maryland after
serving for five years as Sustainability Manager for Johns Hopkins University, where
she worked across all academic divisions. She spent three years working at the
University of Florida Office of Sustainability. Prior to that, she worked as public
relations and marketing specialist at two boutique firms.

She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Baltimore Community ToolBank, which engages in a number of environmental initiatives to strengthen and celebrate the Baltimore community. She was a member of the Environmental Challenges Working Group of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and she has served in numerous leadership capacities with a diverse range of committees and consortiums.”

“This is an incredible opportunity to focus on the area of sustainability that resonates most deeply with me: waste,” said Van Stone. “It is energizing to identify and develop solutions that address the collective and complex challenges around what we consume and discard. I look forward to partnering with a diverse range of supporters, experts and constituents to transform what it means to live and connect socially and sustainably, and promote lasting change for the prevention of trash pollution.”

Ms. Van Stone officially began her tenure on Feb. 12th. She can be reached via
email: ashley@trashfreemaryland.org.

Expanded Polystyrene Food Service Products – Prohibition 2018

It is the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly and we are back again with a bill to ban expanded polystyrene foam food packaging statewide! We know a statewide ban is easier on businesses with locations in multiple jurisdictions and a more effective way to tackle foam litter across the state. Check out our factsheet and please share it widely with your community, legislators, and the businesses you frequent regularly. Let’s spread the word on why Maryland should lead the charge in banning expanded polystyrene foam food packaging and see this bill to the finish line! #FoamFreeMD #MDGA18

Polystyrene Foam Ban Factsheet

More Information:

Sign our petition and let your legislators know that you want a #FoamFreeMD!

Check out the National Aquarium Polystyrene Fact Sheet.

Are you a business owner interested in alternative packaging? Here’s a list of distributors of recyclable and compostable products. Curious about how this would work? Check out the FAQ from Prince George’s County.

Baltimore City Litter Audit Report Released

From September 2016-March 2017, five auditors walked through five neighborhoods in Baltimore surveying the litter levels of each block. Those five neighborhoods were Baltimore Highlands, Curtis Bay, Mondawmin, McElderry Park, and Waverly. Auditors surveyed the same blocks on the same day of each week at roughly the same time, and rated litter levels on a scale of 1-4. We chose this methodology because it is comparable to methodology used in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We analyzed this data to pull out important themes and establish a baseline of litter levels for evaluation purposes of our Trash Free Baltimore campaign and city-wide measures. That data analysis has been finalized in a report and is now available to the public!

What is most important to note is that this project provides us useful information for understanding what impacts litter levels and what role our campaign work plays, and can be easily replicated in future years. We look forward to conducting this project again and seeing how far we have come! Please see it below.

Litter Audit Report

October 11, 2017

Statement of Karla Raettig, Board Chair, Trash Free Maryland on appointment of Julie Lawson by Mayor Muriel Bowser to Direct the Office of the Clean City

“The board of Trash Free Maryland is excited that Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Julie Lawson to lead the Clean City program for Washington, D.C.  Julie is a nationally-recognized expert in trash and litter policy and has spearheaded legislation in Washington, D.C., Maryland and at the state and local level.  Julie was instrumental in creating Trash Free Maryland and we thank her for her leadership as our Executive Director.  We applaud the appointment, the mayor’s recognition of the importance of this issue, and look forward to working with Julie in her new role.

In the coming weeks, we will be conducting an Executive Director search to lead Trash Free Maryland’s important work to promote lasting change for the prevention of trash pollution.  We look forward to partnering with Mayor Bowser, Julie and the city on creating a cleaner, more vibrant Washington, D.C. and Maryland.”

 

Be a Trash Free Restaurant!

Plastic pollution is an increasingly complex problem with dangerous ramifications for the safety of drinking water, aquatic ecosystems, and public health. Twenty-three percent of plastic materials in landfills in the United States come from food containePaperContainer_smallrs and food packaging, and it makes up as much as 80 percent of the trash collected from the Anacostia River and Baltimore Harbor. Put another way, 269,000 tons of plastic pollution are from takeout orders with utensils like cups, plates, straws, and plastic silverware. Food businesses have a responsibility to reduce their contribution to plastic waste and, as technology evolves, it is becoming easier for them to do so. Here are some key statistics on plastic pollution and food businesses:

  • 7 out of 10 categories of plastic waste are single use-plastics like plates, straws, cups, and bags.
  • Plastic packaging is the fastest growing segment of packaging and less than 14 percent of it can be recycled.
  • Americans use more than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils every day and that plastic either lives forever in a landfill, burns in an incinerator, or ends up in the environment contaminating soil and wildlife.
  • Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws each day.
  • Companies waste about $11.4 billion annually in savings by not incorporating recycling into their packaging choices.
  • 150,000 pounds of garbage a year are produced by restaurants.
  • Foam breaks up into tiny pieces absorbing 10 times more pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals than other kinds of plastic increasing toxin exposure to our marine life.
  • US EPA states 100% of Americans already have styrene in their bodies from consuming foods in contact with polystyrene.
  • Over 25 trillion plastic pieces are estimated to be in our ocean’s currently.

While these statistics are staggering, there is hope for food businesses looking to reduce their plastic footprint and lead the movement to decrease plastic pollution. A variety of guides, resources, and lists provide step-by-step tips to phasing out unnecessary single-use plastic and phasing in recyclable and compostable alternatives–that are becoming more cost-effective as more businesses convert. Tips and tools for food businesses to utilize in their quest for preventing plastic pollution include the following:

  • Identify the different streams of waste generated.
  • Assess the input and output of waste generated.
    • Use this baseline data to determine opportunities for waste reduction.
  • Assess and track usage of single-use plastics.
  • Identify which items are crucial and which can be phased out entirely.
  • Identify which products can come in reusable packaging.
    • Seek out products in containers the supplier can take back.
    • Seek out reusable serviceware.
  • Switch to bulk purchasing when applicable.
  • Create a “bring your own” container program.
  • Work with local community members and organizations to create incentives for businesses taking steps to decrease their plastic pollution.
  • Purchase recyclable and compostable service ware.
  • Buy chlorine-free products to avoid leaching of toxic water from the manufacturing of chlorine products.
  • Biodegradable and bio-based products can’t easily reach conditions that allow the product to break down so avoid these products.
  • Join TapIt and allow people to refill their reusable water bottles.
    • Phase out usage of bottled-water.
  • Ask customers before providing them with single-use plastics like straws.

 Resources:

Plastic pollution is a daunting issue, but as we continue to raise awareness and share resources, businesses play a unique role in combatting and reducing plastic pollution. Be a leader in your community and take steps today to reduce your plastic footprint!

Download this article as a tipsheet to share with restaurants in your community.

The damaging history of flushable wipes

So-called flushable disposable wipes have become a hot topic for many consumers, municipal services, and local governments. Despite them being marketed as “flushable,” these wipes do not sufficiently break down or dissolve after they have been flushed. Manufacturers continue to label wipes as flushable because a standard has not been defined within the United States, misleading consumers. In fact, flushable wipes cause serious damage to people’s personal plumbing in their homes and to citywide sewer systems, including blockages called “fatbergs.” Fatbergs are clogs formed from flushable wipes that haven’t broken down combined with oil, grease, and fat that get stuck in sewer systems and cause backups. In November 2016, employees of DC Water testified in front of the DC Council on the fatbergs caused by flushable wipes in DC’s sewer system; you can see detailed photos of fatbergs and read their testimony on the DC Water website.

https://dcwater.com/whats-going-on/blog/unflushables

Photo of fatbergs taken by DC Water. https://dcwater.com/whats-going-on/blog/unflushables

According to DC Water, damages to sewer systems from these wipes can cost the city $50,000 to $100,000 each time, adding up to $1 million in local repair costs in 2014. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has stated that Canada spends $250 million annually on addressing issues stemming from flushable wipes within wastewater treatment plants. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates that it costs the city $3 million a year to clean these wipes out of the sewer systems.

Beyond wreaking havoc on sewer systems, these wipes release their plastic ingredients into the environment. Marine biologist Richard Thomas at the International Marine Litter Research Unit has discussed the similarities between these wipes and microplastics, claiming that they pollute marine life and habitat. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has also warned against the use of these wipes, and the flushing of these wipes, because of the way they break down into microplastics and show up in the stomachs of marine life.

In order to address the large discrepancy between the label on these wipes and their performance, the Washington, D.C. Council passed a bill in 2016 setting standards for flushable wipes and banning the use of that term on labeling if companies don’t meet these standards. The Maryland Senate passed a similar bill in 2017, though the House of Delegates declined to take action. The New York City Council also introduced a bill, with strong support from NYC Department of Environmental Protection, that had similar provisions. Unfortunately, the DC bill has faced significant pushback from industry, who claim that the standard they defined for flushable, is adequate. This industry pushback has gone so far as to involve Congress in DC’s implementation of their bill; Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) briefly threatened to dismantle this bill through the appropriations process, ignoring DC Council’s autonomy in serving its residents.

With so many hurdles and setbacks these bills have encountered, cities and citizens are taking a different approach to standing up against industry’s false labeling. There have been discussions of class action suits against the companies marketing their wipes as flushable with citizens who have experienced plumbing problems and city agencies as the plaintiffs. Just last month a class action lawsuit was filed against Kimberly-Clark Corporation for property damage caused by their “Scott Naturals Flushable Cleansing Cloths” and for the mislabeling of their product. This lawsuit is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Right here in Maryland we are exploring bypassing the legislative process to go straight to the culprit:

If you are a resident of Maryland and have experienced plumbing problems from flushable wipes, the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office wants to hear from you. Those complaints can be made here. Depending on the responses from residents, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office may be seeking a similar route with a class action lawsuit to more effectively combat the increasing problems caused by industry’s interference with regulating these wipes. You can make your voice heard and help fight back against these detrimental products.

Hogan rescinds zero waste goals

Recycling binOn Wednesday, June 28, Governor Hogan issued an executive order rescinding his predecessor Governor O’Malley’s executive order prohibiting new landfill permits and calling for an 85% diversion rate of trash in Maryland landfills by 2040 and a statewide 65% recycling rate by 2020. O’Malley’s executive order, issued in his final days in office, was grounded in stats that indicated residents of Maryland throw away more trash each year than any other place in the country. O’Malley also stated that this executive order would help reduce the burden trash places on taxpayers, greatly minimize litter, and conserve energy.

Hogan’s issued executive order completely repeals O’Malley’s zero waste executive order because, according to the Governor’s statements given to the Maryland Municipal League, Hogan felt O’Malley’s order placed an undue burden on local governments and stripped local authorities of their autonomy and control.

Wednesday’s announcement does not affect the bulk of the state’s comprehensive zero waste plan; the Maryland Department of the Environment continues its work on many of the 61 proposed initiatives. These initiatives, however, are voluntary; the teeth were in the recycling goals. Hogan’s announcement also insists that the state will maintain an emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling waste, but there has not been any further information released on those plans. According to MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles, the Governor’s new plan is about “changing the policy to be more collaborative” but “not changing the law,” as reported by the Baltimore Sun.

Hogan’s reckless executive order doesn’t adequately represent the concerns and needs of the Governor’s constituents. With Maryland on track to reach full capacity at its landfills in 31 years, this executive order is putting the residents of Maryland and the environment at risk. Recycling is a very popular constituent service and far cheaper than landfilling or incineration; rescinding those goals is counter to efforts many counties are already motivated to achieve. When more counties have high recycling rates, the systems become more streamlined, the materials become more valuable, and the whole state sees economic gains.

Recycling rates were at a standstill of 43% in Maryland before O’Malley issued his executive order, prompting ambitious long-term goals to increase those rates. These recycling rates will continue to be at a standstill without a clear plan to increase them. Furthermore, Governor Hogan’s claims that local governments felt burdened, justifying this executive order, are blatantly false. While county governments raised concerns in 2015 about the swift implementation of new landfill rules, state and local officials have been in negotiations together to meet the spirit of the O’Malley order. It is unclear who Hogan consulted when drafting the executive order or who he is trying to protect.