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.

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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.

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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.”

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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, 500 miles walked, and the result – 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.

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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.

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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
MaryPIRG
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
NorthBay
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
Shorerivers
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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30 Days of Action

For many of us the words spring cleaning implies a day or days of drudgery in our homes, cleaning and organizing while the nice weather beckons us to come out and play.

For Trash Free Maryland, spring cleaning means come out and play!  Go for a walk or run, take your pup to the park or the kids to the playground.  While you’re out, pick up trash – just one piece will do, but the more the merrier.  If you and your neighbors pick up just one piece per day, you can help clean your neighborhood and keep it that way by setting an example and making it less friendly to litter: we know that trash attracts more trash!

Step 1 – Pledge your participation.

Step 2 – Share your efforts using #30daysofpickinguplitter (following Baltimore litter leader, Eli Pousson’s example!) and tagging @TrashFreeMD to inspire even more participation from your friends and neighbors.  

Step 3 – Repeat step 2 each day, or as much as you can. Every litter bit counts!

Not enough of a challenge? Bring some neighbors together during the first week of the month to pick some litter and enjoy the weather and catching up. You could also categorize and count your collection,  take pictures of the piles, and share your tally with us. Did you know, data like this helps us advocate for long-term solutions like policy change?

Pick up trash with your friend and neighbors, or join one of these events. If you have a group or event to add, please email info@trashfreemaryland.org:

All month – Alice Ferguson Foundation 31st Annual Potomac River Clean Up

Tuesday, April 2, 9 a.m.  Clean Beach OC Litter Pick Up.  Beach at 54th Street, Ocean City

Saturday, April 6, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. 2720 Gwynnmore Avenue, Baltimore

Thursday, April 11, 3:30 p.m.  Litter Pick Up.  Wet City, 223 W. Chase Street, Baltimore  

Saturday, April 13th, 9 a.m. to Noon, Gaithersburg Green-Up, Malcolm King Park, end of West Side Drive, Gaithersburg

Saturday, April 13, 9 a.m. to Noon,  31st Annual Potomac River Clean Up.  Locations along the Potomac River.

Saturday, April 20, 8 a.m. to Noon,  Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church/Gwynns Falls.  2812 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore.

Saturday, April 20, 9 a.m. to Noon,  Anacostia Watershed Society Earth Day Cleanup, Various Locations

Sunday, April 21, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Trash Derby, Carroll Skate Park

Saturday, April 27, 9 a.m. to Noon, Church of the Guardian Angel/Jones Falls.   2631 Huntingdon Avenue, Baltimore

 

Press Release: Maryland Passes Ban on Expanded Polystyrene Foam Food Containers

Maryland Passes Ban on Expanded Polystyrene Foam Food Containers
Becomes First to Enact Statewide Legislation

April 4, 2019

Contact:
Ashley Van Stone, Executive Director, ashley@trashfreemaryland.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.”

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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.

 

Three New Directors Join Trash Free Maryland Board

Beginning in 2019, three new directors joined the Trash Free Maryland Board. These individuals bring varied backgrounds working in environmental regulation, policy and urban planning, financial management and fundraising – all skillsets and insights we’re delighted and honored to add to or deepen across our directors. Below, learn more about the individuals who will be helping to shape and support our future efforts to address litter and trash pollution statewide. Interested in learning more about board membership? Contact our Executive Director at ashley@trashfreemaryland.org.

Shari Wilson, Founding Principal, Great Bay Work, LLC

What is your biggest trash peeve?
Over-packaged retail goods in the name of theft prevention or cleanliness.  There are other ways…!

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What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for 2019?
To buy less food in single use plastics at the grocery store. So far — meeting expectations but can do better!

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Strategic, efficient, with humor (4…)

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
Trash Free Maryland is the only organization dedicated solely to solid waste management, filling a critical need in Maryland.

Derek Baumgardner, Executive Director, Baltimore Municipal Zoning and Appeals Board 

What is your biggest trash peeve?

Single-use plastics (especially water bottles)! We spend billions of dollars supporting public infrastructure to provide drinkable, potable water to people around the globe. To buy bottled water – which we consume in 5 minutes then discard the container for a thousand year decomposition process – is the height of waste and consumerism gone awry. Open your tap and make your favorite reusable water bottle your friend and companion!

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What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for 2019?
Be more mindful of grocery store packaging and do every I can to limit plastic purchasing and, instead, opt for a local farmers market.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Creative, collaborative, and engaged.

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
Its distinctive and targeted focus and TFMD’s ability to have immediate impact. While other organizations work to tackle very serious and pressing concerns like climate change, ocean and bay conservation, or sustainable farming practices around the globe, what sets TFMD apart is its laser focus on the micro issue of trash, litter, debris, and waste in our communities. By targeting this specific aspect of pollution, TFMD is able to make visible progress with achievable aims that positively impact our communities every day.

Ali Solonche

What is your biggest trash peeve?
That’s a hard one but I’d have to go with plastic bags! Plastic bags for produce, plastic bags in check-out lines, plastic bags at the mall, thrift stores, restaurants- it never ends. It pains me the most to see someone use a plastic bag for ONE item, when it could be easily carried or put in a purse or pocket.

Most people know they’re going shopping when they’re headed out the door, so to me, being prepared with bags is just part of the shopping experience. Not to mention, it’s so easy and simple to keep re-usable bags in your car, purse, backpack, etc., so you’re always ready. There are so many cute, strong and affordable options out there that even it wasn’t about the wastefulness, I’d rather just have a re-usable bag anyway!IMG_2026.jpg

What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for 2019?
Last year I started transitioning all my bath and beauty products to be packaging free (like a shampoo bar), local brands that will re-use the containers once I’m done and/or 100% compostable packaging, so I plan to continue with that process as I use up my products this year. I’ve also committed to buying all clothing second-hand or from “slow-fashion” companies that are ethically and sustainably made.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Creative. Educational. Relatable.

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
I love that TFMD is committed to both short-term and long-term solutions. For many people, making small lifestyle changes or doing things like community clean-ups is their way to create change and make a difference, which is amazing and much needed, so it’s great that TFMD can not only contribute to those efforts, but can also take a deeper dive through legislation and policy, in a way that most of us cannot.

 

 

 

The House and Senate Passed the Foam Bill! Are we there yet?

To say we’re excited to announce that legislation to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam passed both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland State Senate for the first time would fall short:  after the three years of advocating for this bill, Maryland is on track to make history as the first state to pass a Foam Ban. This is significant, and special, and is our mission as an organization manifested!

Our bill sponsors -Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) and Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) – led these bills through the maze of the General Assembly, supported by countless other elected representatives coming together to take a strong stance on trash. It was even a priority bill for the Maryland Democratic Party on this year’s legislative agenda.

So, how much do you know about the process, and most importantly, what’s left to make it official?

Every bill in the MDGA is introduced in each chamber (called First Reader), and then referred to committees. Unlike previous years, the bill was assigned to a single committee in the Senate –  Education, Health & Environmental Affairs (EHEA)- and was duly assigned in the House, both the Environment & Transportation (E&T) and Economic Matters (ECM) Committees. Getting a bill out of a committee is its own task, so multiple assignments multiplies that effort, but navigating three rather than four committees this year was another boon to the campaign. From here, the bills were scheduled hearings, where proponents and opponents come to testify, urging committee members to vote favorably or unfavorably, and/or suggesting any desired amendments. IMG_9385

Those of us in Annapolis met with committee members to brief them and ask for their support during the hearing, and we organized diverse panels of advocates – from nonprofits, government agencies, and the business community – to testify at bill hearings.  Our leading advocates (special shout outs to Maryland Sierra Club and the Maryland League of Conservation Voters) helped conduct research to prepare bill sponsors and committee members, and to supplement the materials provided to all committee members in advance of the hearing.  We collected studies and sign-on letters, and those on the front-lines of environmental protection shared photos and data to illustrate the scope and severity of foam pollution, and the support for a consistent, statewide ban of the material to move Maryland toward a cleaner future.Senate Hearing foam 2019

This is where YOU came in. Through our foam bill coalition, partners statewide  mobilized their members – generating more than 12,000  emails and phone calls to legislators! As we met with legislators and conducted follow-up after the hearings, it was hard to ignore: many Marylanders supported a foam ban, and they were making that clear to their elected representatives, many of whom gained new understanding on the issue, and had their position influenced in favor of the bill.

Following hearings, the bill gets discussed in committee and/or sub-committee where amendments can be suggested and voted on. First up was the House Environment Subcommittee of E&T where we received the first indication of the rough waters ahead.  A key concern the emerged from some of the Republicans on the committee was uneggspected based on past years’ experience — egg cartons and a desire to eggxempt them – which also became a theme in the Senate as well.  We researched the prevalence of foam egg cartons in state, the cost of foam and alternative cartons, and worked to connect with egg producers on their thoughts about the bill. We found that cardboard cartons were cheaper, more eggs than not in Maryland markets were packaged in non-foam (and some that were would be exempted under the current bill language) and that many egg producers did not foresee a negative impact, and supported the intent of the bill.

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Next up – full committee vote in the Senate, and then consideration by the whole Senate (aka onto the Senate floor). On Second Reader five weakening amendments were offered;  all were defeated.  The bill went to Third Reader and final passage where it passed 34-14 in a bipartisan vote.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Environment committee offered several amendments.  We spent time reviewing each amendment with the bill sponsor and other subject matter experts and advocates, and shared our position with committee members. E&T voted the bill out of committee with some of these amendments, sending it to the secondary committee – Economic Matters – to discuss and hold their vote. Some further clarifying amendments – and conversations on cartons! – later, and ECM voted the bill out of committee, taking it to its next destination: the House floor. The House followed the Senate rejecting the same amendments during Second Reader and passing the bill on Third Reader in a 97-28 bipartisan vote.

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So what next? Does it now go to the Governor? Not just yet. The House and Senate passed different versions and they will have to reconcile their differences.  There are several vehicles to conform the two bills so that one version is passed and sent to the Governor. Over these final weeks of session, we’ll see that process unfold, and continue to keep our followers posted. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram!

-Kim Lamphier, Advocacy Director

Statewide Litter Challenge Returns this April

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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.

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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