Trash Free Maryland Announces New Executive Director

After an extensive and rigorous search led by the Trash Free Maryland Board of Directors, we are proud to announce that Shane Robinson has accepted the position of executive director. Shane begins his new role on December 2nd and our outstanding current Executive Director, Ashley Van Stone, leaves us on December 13th. 

Shane developed a love for mission-driven organizations and sustainability early in life, and later that translated into making organizations work better for themselves and for the planet. He has worked with a vast array of nonprofit and for-profit organizations to make them more successful, and has a track record of building great boards, improving fundraising and governance, cutting expenses and overhead, and ensuring operations are mission-focused. We are confident that his skills, affability, integrity and experience will continue the organization’s success, as we enter our 10th year working to reduce and prevent litter throughout Maryland.

2017-07-15_Anthropocene -1007Shane has a Master’s degree in sustainable development from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont; Bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and biology from the University of Nevada, Reno; and was a Certified Association Executive (CAE). He was born in Iran to American parents and has lived, worked, or studied on six continents.

Shane previously served as the US Executive Director for the Ehlers-Danlos Society – a global community of patients, caregivers, health care professionals, and supporters, dedicated to saving and improving the lives of those affected by the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), hypermobility spectrum disorders, and related conditions. When Shane began working with the Society’s predecessor, the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation in 2011, it was a small organization focused almost entirely on patient support and education. Working in close collaboration with board, Shane engaged multiple stakeholders to help create a new organizational strategy, mission, and brand identity. Within a few short years, the rebranded Ehlers-Danlos Society has become a dynamic, global, multimillion dollar organization driving international EDS research, advocacy, and awareness—worldwide.

Shane served in the Maryland General Assembly from 2011-2019 focusing on environmental and energy policy. He was the Chairman of the Montgomery County House Delegation from 2014 to 2018. In the past he worked for the US Forest Service as a wildland firefighter, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia. He is a member of the National Ski Patrol and a PADI scuba instructor. He enjoys trail running and spending time with his family.

Giving Tuesday 2019

We fight trash. Why? Trash on streets and in neighborhoods look terrible, harm our communities and cost money to clean up. Trash in streams and rivers puts plastics and poisons in our water which are swallowed by fish, birds and animals.

We promote effective policies and provide education to stop litter. We want you to join us to make Maryland trash free! Help us continue this work and build on successes to ensure a Maryland that is cleaner and healthier for all. Funds raised this Giving Tuesday (December 3) will support systematic and sustainable waste reduction and litter prevention.

There are four simple but effective ways you can help:

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

Board of Directors Announcement of Executive Director Resignation

It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces Ashley Van Stone’s forthcoming departure as Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland.

From the Board of Directors,  Trash Free Maryland

It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces Ashley Van Stone’s forthcoming departure as Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland. The Board congratulates Ashley on her outstanding leadership, and wants to thank her for her dedicated service that has led to numerous successes for the organization in a short amount of time, including:

  • championing the passage of the nation’s first statewide ban on expanded polystyrene foam food service products, after leading successful campaigns in Baltimore City, the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County,
  • supporting introduction of plastic bag legislation in Baltimore City, and advising on additional plastic bag bills in local jurisdictions;
  • expanding the organization’s network of partners and supporters,
  • growing and cultivating the Board of Directors by 100%,
  • conceiving and initiating our innovative partner program, Cheers to Clean Water,  with area breweries to highlight the threats of trash pollution to clean water and attract new advocates;
  • forming the Trash Free Baltimore Collaborative to synergize, scale, and support more systematic mitigation and prevention among and across city agencies, nonprofits, community groups, businesses and institutions, leading to collaborative data collection, analysis and advocacy,
  • and developing and launching an anti-litter campaign, Less Litter, B-More,  that is continually expanding to new partners and neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City, and can serve as a model for other communities throughout Maryland.

Her management, policy and partnership building skills have created a foundational structure that will serve the organization for years to come. We cannot thank Ashley enough for the commitment, passion, creativity and enthusiasm she has given Trash Free Maryland during her tenure. She will be greatly missed by the staff, Board, members and partners alike. The board wishes Ashley the very best in her future endeavors, and looks forward to following her continued success.

The Board will begin its search for our next Executive Director on September 6th.


Trash Free Maryland’s Board of Directors

From Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director, Trash Free Maryland

Earlier this year I notified the board of my impending resignation as I prepare to relocate out of state.  The decision for my transition did not come easily as I am extremely proud of all that Trash Free Maryland staff, board and partners have accomplished during my tenure. While I have a mix of emotions as I prepare to step down, I am confident in the strong team of directors in selecting the next great leader of Trash Free Maryland. For me, I will continue to fight for social and environmental responsibility while being nearer to my family at a time when that is critically important. I plan to take my talents and expertise in the realm of trash to Orlando, Florida and pursue opportunities to affect similar change a bit further down I-95.

I want to express my profound gratitude to all who have been so supportive of the organization and of me personally over the years: staff, board members, and, of course, our myriad – and ever growing – network of partners. Without you, the organization would not be as strong and vibrant as it is. I am so honored to have served as the leader of Trash Free Maryland, and will watch with much excitement and anticipation as it makes further strides in supporting and creating solutions to eliminate litter throughout Maryland.

Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director, Trash Free Maryland


Trash Free Maryland Statement Regarding the Passing of Advocacy Director, Kim Lamphier

It is with very heavy hearts that we share the passing of our Advocacy Director, Kim Lamphier. Kim passed away on Friday, August 30, after a courageous battle with cancer. She remained tenacious and upbeat while enduring treatment, and her loss will forever leave a void in the Maryland advocacy community. Her keen intellect, passion for policy, and infectious attitude were critical to the success of the statewide ban on expanded polystyrene foam food containers this past General Assembly, among countless other bills over the years, and will be sorely missed at Trash Free Maryland. We offer our deepest condolences to Kim’s family during this difficult time, and will forever work to honor her legacy through continued advocacy for a cleaner and safer state.

A memorial service for Kim will be held Saturday, August 14 from 12 noon to 4pm, at Matthews 1600, located at 1600 Frederick Rd, Catonsville,  MD 21228.

From our Executive Director:

Two hundred forty two. The number of days I personally knew Kim. Two hundred forty two, which are quite few in the scheme of things, but lasting in their impression for whatever number of days remain for me.

While Kim spent her professional time hustling the halls of Annapolis advocating for policies to protect you, me, our communities and our natural resources, she made change happen in a different way: Kim changed Your life, whoever You were.

Our first interaction was when I interviewed her on January 2nd for our open position just days out from the start of the General Assembly. By January 7th she was on board, so clearly the right choice with her expertise, experience and enthusiasm. I met her in person for the first time that day, and was immediately taken by her warmth, her sharp insights into anyone and everyone of the Maryland Legislative Community, and her zeal to get started yesterday on the fight for a foam free Maryland – our priority bill for 2019. While I met Kim that morning at an Atwater’s in Catonsville, surely I had known her much longer. At least, that’s how her demeanor could make anyone feel – like you were at once a valued and important member of her tribe, and her tribe mattered above all else.

Kim was optimistic against the odds. She was unwaveringly friendly. She was shortchanged on time, though I could hear her arguing otherwise because she was grace and gratitude, mixed with exactly the right dose of grit. While I was type A, she was type “Ashley, everything is on track. Seriously. YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN.” She was grounding, and generous, and a true gift to me when I was immersed in my own grieving process, navigating us through session on the coat-tails of her charisma, as much as her conviction.

When we lose someone important to us, no adjective can feel sufficient to describe that person’s uniqueness, impact, and the sobering sentiments left in their wake. I am devastated for Kim, that she did not get more time to do what she loved. I am devastated for her family, whose ache over her absence can only be as immense as she was in her presence. And I am devastated for a world without Kim, but am grateful for the time I was given with her, for the time she dedicated to our cause, and for the legacy that many will strive to honor for days and years to come.

Thank you, Kim.

-Ashley Van Stone


Cheers to Clean Water 2019

We’re excited to bring this event back for the second year! Join Trash Free Maryland, Blue Water Baltimore, and several Baltimore-based creators of fine adult beverages to demonstrate that clean water, great beer and healthy communities go hand in hand in hand!

On Saturday, Sept. 21, a collaborative clean-up event will take place from 9am – 12 noon as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, with multiple locations throughout the city. Each volunteer will receive a voucher for beverages from participating breweries (for those 21 and older). Those 21 and younger are welcome and will receive a special thank you reward as well!

Register online at

IMG_7369You can choose the location where you would like to help clean-up,
by completing the on-line sign-up form and signing the waiver, then sharing with your like-minded friends.

Participants who complete the clean-up will track their findings to inform and support ongoing efforts to eliminate trash pollution in Baltimore.

A special thank you to Baltimore City Department of Public Works for their support picking up the trash haul! Cheers!

Baltimore Bag Bill 2019

On Monday, June 17, 2019, Councilman Bill Henry introduced legislation to ban the free distribution of plastic bags at the point of sale, and place a fee on other types of bags, such as paper.

TFMD Herring Run April 2019_4.JPG

Why plastic bags? I see lots of other litter too.
We can educate people about the problems of litter generally, but to create significant behavior change, we have to target specific behaviors. Each component of litter is associated with different specific behaviors, so each component requires a specific approach. With bags, we can significantly reduce litter by encouraging reusable bag use. With beverage containers, we reduce littering and increase cleanup by making the bottles and cans worth something–a refundable deposit has been proven for decades to work. For cigarette butts, we need disposal devices that people don’t fear will catch fire–and we need people to realize those filters are not biodegradable. The list goes on. Addressing disposable bags is just one piece of the puzzle.

Isn’t this a tax on the poor?
Everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, can make the choice about whether to bring a reusable bag or not. The bag law will only affect your shopping bill if you choose to use disposable bags.

How will the fee be used?
Currently the bill proposes that businesses retain .1 out of every .5 charge. Trash Free Maryland will encourage that businesses get to retain more, and that funds raised by the City be dedicated toward litter mitigation, and providing resources – like reusable bags – to low income residents.

Won’t it hurt small businesses?
In DC and Montgomery County where fees have been in place for a few years, no business has reported declining sales because of bag laws. Instead, most report significant savings because they don’t have to buy as many bags.

Ways to Get involved and support this bill:

Other Resources

Can Litter Affect Mental Health?

Written by Anthony Nicome, former DSIP Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Summer Research Intern

Litter is arguably one of the most aesthetically displeasing occurrences that plague our communities and natural environment. We find it on our sidewalks, in our storm drains, along our coastlines, beaches and remote islands, and within deep-sea vents. Walking through our country’s largest urban centers and surveying the few pieces of litter in the distance or within my immediate space, I’ve on occasion asked myself many times: how did it get there? Were these napkins strewn across the street carried by the wind after being positioned on the condiment bar at the neighborhood bodega? Or was the park bench in which a Gatorade bottle peacefully rested, adopted as a “non-traditional” trash can by its former owner? I assume that many of us have thoughts like this. For many, witnessing litter on the ground and the act of littering is upsetting. Personally, it robs me of the positive feelings that nature normally provides, and makes me wonder why individuals feel the need to use our planet as if it’s one giant trash receptacle. Research has provided the public health community a plethora of insight on the beneficial effects that nature and greened city lots have on our mental health and wellbeing. However, I’ve always wondered, what happens to an individual’s mood and overall mental health when these mentally soothing environments are impaired with litter? Does nature and/or greened lots within the built-environment provide the same positive health outcomes in a littered state as it would in a non-littered one?

BlogPostImageFollowing my summer research experience at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), my research partner and advisor, Dr. Megan Latshaw, shared that Trash Free Maryland was interested in answering these same questions. The goal was to better understand the relationships between litter and mental health, and utilize that insight to inform an anti-litter campaign and programming.  From here, I embarked on a literature review. For those not familiar with the term, a literature review is a comprehensive summary of previous research regarding a specific topic. For this review, all the articles gathered focused on the relationships between litter and mental health, and what I found was interesting!

I started the review by collecting literature from reputable scientific databases and a research journal including PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Journal of Environmental Health. I then selected articles based on their relevancy to litter and mental health. In total, 131 peer-reviewed articles were initially generated via the use of topic-specific keywords, phrase searches, field searches, and Boolean connectors. Boolean connectors are single word phrases, “AND” (narrows a search), “OR’ (broadens a search), and “NOT” (eliminates terms from a search) which can be used to improve search results. In many of the articles, litter was found to be a sub-variable under either the “neighborhood perception” and “neighborhood disorder” variables. Because of this, the initial literature search focused on articles that included these keywords when analyzed for its relationship to mental health. Out of the hundred plus peer-reviewed articles, only eight directly analyzed the relationship between litter and health, with three published non-peer reviewed articles making it into the review. These articles were collected from academic online libraries using the same search techniques used for the collected peer-reviewed articles. Articles that analyzed litter’s relationship to physical or chronic illness were also incorporated.

IMG_0299To inform short and long-term strategies to address litter in communities, I had to review both the methodology and findings from the collected studies. Many of the studies used the same data collection techniques that included interviews, surveys, focus groups, and reputable statistical techniques that analyze the correlations between different variables. Depression was the most widely studied mental health disorder, while anxiety and ADHD followed. A study from Portland State University found that patients enrolled in mental health disorder treatment programs perceived litter located around their housing facility to be a factor in hindering the development of positive health outcomes associated with their current mental health recovery.[1] Another study found that even with the introduction of new community resources, the severity of depression in littered communities remained stable or increased.2 A study analyzing marine litter used photographs to analyze the psychological impacts of visiting littered beaches.3 It was found that photographs that showed un-littered coasts tended to provide participants with a sense of happiness and less stress. In contrast, photographs exhibiting littered coasts caused participants to exhibit stress and lack of positive psychological benefits that beach destinations normally provide. Studies that used the Center for Epidemiological Depression scale and Patient Health Questionnaire to measure the correlation between litter and mental health found that patients who communicated a more negative perception of neighborhood characteristics displayed more depressive symptoms.4 Participants who communicated a more positive perception of neighborhood displayed fewer depressive symptoms.

While most of the literature that I found focused solely on the direct impacts of litter on mental health, one study revealed an indirect correlation between litter and violence. Essentially, the study found litter to correlate to depression with the same incidence of depression indirectly correlating with violence.5 This finding is important because for example, if the study only focused on the direct correlation between litter and depression, crime/violence prevention professionals may have concluded violent events to be correlated to something other than litter. Because of this, eliminating violence would possibly never be completely feasible due to the stimulant (litter) not being identified. This study sheds light on the importance of understanding both indirect and direct impacts of litter on mental health; doing so allows for a more comprehensive and holistic approach in determining the relationships between mental health, litter and other environmental determinants of health.

While you may be surprised (or not), this review has developed the grounds for further research focused on exploring this environmental health issue as a community and mental health one. Although it is essential to understand the negative impacts of litter on ecosystems and various components of the natural environment, wildlife, and ourselves, little has been done to explore the direct and indirect ramifications of litter on mental health and overall quality of life. This review reveals that there is a need for more research focused on these relationships to better understand and in turn address litter not only as a threat to the physical environment, but as a threat to an individual’s mental health as well.

IMG_0015I hope that this review will encourage policy makers to support and pass legislation focused on reducing litter. In addition, I hope this review helps others realize that litter not only contributes to an impaired physical environment, but also impairs well-being more broadly. I believe that this research will benefit environmental non-profit organizations in providing additional reasons to sponsor campaigns that are focused on creating litter free and healthier communities. More specifically, I am encouraged that this review will drive new research initiatives aimed at understanding neighborhood-related factors in depression and other mental health disorders. Understanding these relationships will provide public health and medical practitioners further insight into treatment and prevention programs, especially for patients residing in heavily littered neighborhoods. This review begs the question, is addressing litter a way to impact mental health disorders that researchers have not fully explored?

1 Shearer, L. A. (2016) Understanding Neighborhood Satisfaction for Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities: a Mixed Method Study. Portland State University Library.

2 Curry. (2004) Neighborhood Disorder and Depression: Multi-level Relationships at Three Levels of Aggregation. Digital Commons Network.

3 Wyles, K. J., Pahl, S., Thomas, K., & Thompson, R. C. (2016). Factors That Can Undermine the Psychological Benefits of Coastal Environments. Environment and Behavior,48(9), 1095-1126. doi:10.1177/0013916515592177

4 Perez, L. G., Arredondo, E. M., Mckenzie, T. L., Holguin, M., Elder, J. P., & Ayala, G. X. (2015). Neighborhood Social Cohesion and Depressive Symptoms among Latinos: Does Use of Community Resources for Physical Activity Matter?Journal of Physical Activity and Health,12(10), 1361-1368. doi:10.1123/jpah.2014-0261

5 Curry, A., Latkin, C., & Davey-Rothwell, M. (2008). Pathways to depression: The impact of neighborhood violent crime on inner-city residents in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.Social Science & Medicine,67(1), 23-30. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.007

Reflection on Thirty Straight Days of Fighting Litter

For the past month, I’ve been excited to be one of dozens of people in Baltimore and across the state of Maryland picking up litter every day for thirty days. This is the second year Trash Free Maryland has shared the #30daysofpickinguplitter challenge so I was glad to both welcome back returning trashpickers and encourage friends and neighbors trying it for the first time. What do people get out of a month of trash? What can we learn from their experiences? Here are a few lessons I think we can all learn from.


Photo by Nicole Hartig.

The first big lesson is that you can pick up trash almost anywhere while doing all kinds of activities. David Redden picked up litter while fishing, Ian McCullough did it while walking his parents’ dog, and Erin cleaned up the shoreline from a kayak.

Ian  shared that he is sometimes surprised by both “how easy it is to find litter” and “how easy it is to make an actual tangible difference.” You see some nasty trash on the ground? “5 minutes later…..less nasty trash on ground.” Ian’s pro tip? “Keeping a box of gloves & trash bags in car helps too.”

Of course, it isn’t always easy. Jon Merryman was already “hyper-motivated” even before trying out the 30 day challenge. This month was intense, even for him, as Jon explained “My hand is totally worn out from using the grabber daily.”


Photo by Eli Pousson.

But you do need more than trash bags and grabbers to make it through the month. The second lesson is that sharing photos and stories with friends and neighbors helps trash pickers stay motivated. For Erin, “some days were harder than others, just due to long days, places traveled,” but the supportive community in the Bmore Trashpickers Facebook Group helped her stay motivated. Leslie Kay, founder of the Bmore Trashpickers group, has even started organizing  what she calls Trash Church—a regular Sunday gathering that pulled sixteen big bags of trash out of Herring Run Park in just a single day.

It also helps when you can get friends and family to join you. Trash Free Maryland managed to combine a litter clean-up with a happy hour and recruited the staff at Wet City in Mount Vernon to join in the fun!

Keith Klump recruited his wife to grab two big bags of trash in Remington for the last day of the challenge, but shared so many before and after photos throughout the month. Imagine the after if even more were mobilized into action? 

The third and final lesson is that picking up litter every day is a essential reminder of our shared responsibility to take care of our streets, parks, and streams. Andrew Williams noticed the litter up and  down Falls Road when he moved to Baltimore last year but the thirty-day challenge gave him a good excuse to get out and pick it up. Andrew is hoping that his work (and all the people picking up trash this month) can inspire others “to follow the example of those citizens who are committed to this sort of nuts-and-bolts conservation.”

When people ask David why he picks up trash all the time, he simply says “If I don’t—who will?” Erin explained that it “makes me angry that there is just SO MUCH TRASH. Now I see it everywhere I go.”

We’re all looking for ways to reduce litter pollution in our communities. This is what makes Trash Free Maryland such an important organization to the state. Policies like the statewide foam ban are a great start to reducing waste and protecting our local environment. Please consider making a donation, keep picking up litter, and join in next year for another #30daysofpickinguplitter.

-Eli Pousson

Special thanks to everyone who participated this month and to everyone who shared their photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter including Erin Saul, Nicole Hartig, Jon Merryman, Leslie Kay, Sarah Guiles, Eryka Wentz, Brenda Fike, Keith Klump, Laura Flamm, Regina Shock, David Redden, Eleni Giorgos, and Ian McCullough! Feature photo by Erin Saul.


A victory three years, and many partners, in the making

After three years, more than 1,200 hours, 120 coalition meetings, 36,000 constituent contacts, and some 500 miles walked, Maryland is the first state to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food products: a victory by and for the village that has called, written, advocated and educated on why food service foam is threatening our environmental and public health. While we still await action (or not) from Governor Hogan, the veto-proof majority vote in both chambers helps ensure that in due time, this bill will become law.


Photo credit: Delegate Lierman’s Office

While the growing challenge of plastic and trash pollution has dovetailed with heightened concern thanks to media coverage, new documentaries, and in the context of a shifting recycling and waste management market and system in light of the National Sword Policy, the Maryland press and outlets around the nation took notice of what was happening right here.  More than 100 news outlets including the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Maryland Daily Record, Cecil Whig, Herald Mail, Southern Maryland News, Delmarva Now, WBAL, Fox5, NBC Washington, WMDT, and Maryland Public Television reported on this groundbreaking achievement.

Nationally – CNN, National Geographic, Fox News, Yahoo News, CNBC, Associated Press, Global Citizen and local outlets around the United States such as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Sacramento Bee reported on this first in the nation ban on this insidious pollutant.  The “Story of Stuff” and numerous allies across the nation shared these stories, and amplified the dialogue around the decisive actions needed to address pollution – actions that are diverse and multi-pronged, and of which this is a significant, albeit an initial, step in the right direction.

Now we are getting requests from other states and organizations to share resources so they so they can join our foam-free efforts. And Maryland has officially distinguished itself as a leader in the fight to address trash pollution.


Photo credit: Senator Kagan’s Office

Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) and Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) have championed this legislation since 2017, nurturing understanding and support in their respective chambers that culminated it the bill’s designated as 2019 priority legislation by House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller.  On April 3, House Bill 109/Senate Bill 285 passed with overwhelming majorities.

So for those wanting final clarity on what the final passed bill will do, the legislation:

  • prohibits food service businesses such as restaurants, coffee shops, and institutional cafeterias in hospitals and schools, from using EPS foam products such as plates, take-out containers and cups, intended by the manufacturer to be used once for eating or drinking or generally recognized by the public to be discarded after one use.  
  • It also prohibits these foam products from being sold in retail to the consumer.
  • It permits products packaged before they reaches the food service business, such as eggs packaged before receipt by a grocery store, to be in foam, as well as foam trays used to package raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • It does not require a specific alternative, leaving those options open for businesses to select the products that work best for their business and budget.
    • As a consumer though, you can still BYO and further the progress to reduce waste outright, and as more jurisdictions and municipalities are exploring how to improve or expand diversion – both recycling and composting – product shifts can in turn work to align with the systems and solutions in place in their respective community.
  • It only applies to food service foam – it does not affect “block foam” often used to package items for transport.
  • Enforcement will be by complaint to the department that each county chooses to enforce this law.
  • The ban takes effect on July 1, 2020 with the possibility of a one-year grace period if the business requests additional time.  

Following the Governor signing the bill or taking no action by May 23, the next step will be for Cities and Counties to develop and implement programs to educate their businesses on the new law.  As a result of the successful education programs in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, no businesses have applied for waiver and implementation has been smooth, and both serve as models for education, implementation and enforcement. Baltimore City, the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County all passed local bans prior to the state bill, and thus have already begun some of this work.

There is a lot of work, research, and nuance that goes into drafting a bill, and how it progresses through committee hearings and votes, before what it then endures on the floor of the House and/or Senate. While this bill allows for some exemptions, everyone can vote with their dollar and choose to patronize businesses and products that avoid using foam.  It’s on it’s way out, and this ban will accelerate that in Maryland and beyond.TFMD Foam_Baltimore_April2019_4.JPG

While we have been “foam focused” for a few years now, we also worked on a number of other bills this legislative session:

During the 2019 Session, SB370, sponsored by Senator Chris West (R-42), which requires office buildings with more than 150,000 square feet to implement recycling programs, also passed, albeit it still leaves a lot of businesses and entities not covered.  House Bill 502, sponsored by Delegate Terri Hill (D-12), which would establish a reuse and recycling program for mattresses and box springs passed the House but was not voted on in the Senate.  And other bills to require restaurants only provide straws on request, that hotels and motels provide clear information to guests on what can be recycled on site, and creating a task force to develop recommendations on storm drain pollution, were withdrawn or did not make it to the floor for votes. We anticipate discussions over the coming weeks to explore how these, similar or complementary bills will re-emerge in 2020.

The most important part of this post: that this was a team effort, over time, and that teamwork truly made the dream work! We applaud every Delegate and Senator who voted favorably for this legislation. We are grateful of course to our sponsors Delegate Lierman and Senator Kagan for their tenacity and fortitude over these three years, and the way they have embraced the issue of trash pollution as one both pertinent and paramount, as well as their staff, especially Kimberly Shiloh and Ryan Kirby, for keeping us all informed and organized amidst the rapid pace of the legislative session.

We must also thank those who have championed foam bans locally throughout Maryland, helping to reduce and eliminate use of this hazardous material, while creating both a tipping point and proof of concept to ultimately succeed in a statewide ban.

And we are immensely grateful for our many committed partners in this effort, without whom we certainly would not be able to celebrate this significant and historic success. And we hope you’ll continue to join us as we continue to advocate for root-cause solutions to litter and waste.

A special thank you to the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and The Maryland Sierra Club, namely Karla Raettig, Kristen Harbeson, Josh Tulkin, Sydney Jacobs and Martha Ainsworth, for the many hours of strategizing, researching, and coordinating, on top of direct advocacy and outreach to encourage passage of this ban.

We also want to acknowledge the members of the diverse coalition for a Foam Free MD. Without this entire team, we would not be on the precipice we are today, proudly looking back and where we’ve come from up, and determinedly looking ahead to the work still needed to ensure clean and healthy waterways for all.

Alice Ferguson Foundation
Alderman Rob Savidge, City of Annapolis and the Annapolis City Council
Anacostia Riverkeeper
Anacostia Watershed Community Advisory Committee (AWCAC)
Annapolis Environmental Commission
Annapolis Green
Arundel Rivers Federation
Assateague Coastal Trust
Baltimore Beyond Plastic
Baltimore City Public School System
Baltimore Heritage
Baltimore Office of Sustainability
Blue Water Baltimore
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
City Councilman, John Bullock, Baltimore
Claire Jordan
Clean Water Action
Coastal Conservation Association
Councilwoman Lisa Rodvien, and the Anne Arundel County Council
County Executive Steuart Pittman
Earth Coalition
Elevation Burger
Emmanuel UMC
Environment Maryland
Friends of Deep Creek Lake
Friends of Northwest Branch
Hatcher Group
Humane Society of the United States
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
Julie Lawson
Kent Island Beach Clean Ups
Less Plastic Please
Lotus Kitchen
Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education
Maryland League of Women Voters
Maryland Public Health Association
Maryland Public Interest Research Group
Maryland Ornithological Society
Mayor of Salisbury, Jacob Day
MD Environmental Health Network
Midshore Riverkeeper
MOM’s Organic Market
Montgomery County Board of Education
Montgomery County Department of the Environment
Mother’s Cantina
National Aquarium
Neighbors of Northwest Branch
Pearlstone Center
Pick Up Your Plastic
Plastic Free QAC
The Potomac Conservancy
Prince George’s County Department of the Environment
Rachel Carson Council
Rock Creek Conservancy
Sassafras Riverkeeper
Save Back River
South River Federation
Surfrider Foundation and Surfrider Ocean City Chapter
Takoma Park Mobilization Environmental Committee
The Salisbury School
Transition Howard County
University Park Town Council
Veteran Compost
Vida Taco
Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore
Waterkeepers Chesapeake
WISE (Women Indivisible Strong Effective)
Zero Litter


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