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

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.”


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, Former Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment and 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…!

shari wilson 2017.jpg

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!


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, Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual

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.


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.


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


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.”


Legislative Priorities 2019: A Foam Free MD

For the third year, we will be advocating for a statewide ban on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers, in order to ensure this fragile, hard to recycle, and toxic material is kept out of our communities and waterways. Once again, the Maryland Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment voted the EPS foam ban as one of their priority bills for the 2019 General Assembly – a strong signal to legislators, constituents and businesses that waste reduction and trash pollution are a critical focus for environmental advocates.27867524_2340897109261163_7361231028957756499_n

The first couple of weeks of this year’s General Assembly Session will be all about getting to know the new members following last year’s election. This includes new committee leadership, particularly in the Senate where three of four Committee Chairs are new and all four of the Committee Vice-Chairs are new to their roles.  And, we’re thrilled to have Kim Lamphier on board as our new Advocacy Director this legislative session. Read more about her here.

During the first weeks of session, we will meet with our lead sponsors, Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) and Delegate Brooke Lierman (D-46) to strategize to ensure this is the year the bill passes. We, along with a diverse range of partners, are meeting with members of the House Environment and Transportation Committee and the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee – the lead committees on this issue – to educate, engage and empower our state lawmakers to see the promise of this bill in preserving and protecting Maryland’s waterways and wildlife.

Since the last general assembly, the conversation around plastic and single use waste, marine pollution, and effective ways to reduce and prevent litter has exploded rapidly. From a summer focusing on straw use, to a compelling cover of National Geographic, and a multitude of fresh commitments and campaigns to ditch disposables, we hope to see continuing progress from our elected officials this session. Cities across the United States are leading the effort to ban foam.  Among them, New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis along with smaller cities like Maine’s Portland and Freeport with connections to the coast or significant waterways. And Maryland has also shown leadership. Our cities and counties are leading the way in our state. Most recently the City of Annapolis joined other municipalities including Baltimore City, the Cities of Gaithersburg, Takoma Park and Rockville, as well as Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties that have all enacted foam bans. This year we hope to have Maryland become the first state to ban EPS foam food service products.

In the coming weeks, we will be asking you to call your members to ask them to co-sponsor the bill, urge them for a favorable vote in committee and when the legislation comes to the floor, and to engage your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues on how to be effective advocates for litter legislation.  Please stay tuned for these requests as the bills are drafted, introduced, and begin moving forward! Subscribe to our newsletter, and/or follow us social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for the latest news and action alerts. We need everyone to be a part of team Trash Free MD!

We’re Hiring

Trash Free Maryland is looking for a coordinator to support our upcoming policy work during the Maryland General Assembly. Check our posting on our Jobs & Internships page to learn more and how to apply.Small-2


Giving Tuesday 2018

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 will support systematic and sustainable waste reduction and litter prevention.

There are four simple but effective ways you can help:

Unique Partnerships on the Pathway to Prevention

As an organization, Trash Free Maryland has typically worked to support the cleanup efforts of a diverse range of partners, and coordinate with those groups on gathering data and photos in support of root cause solutions to litter. We see our role in organizing and leveraging expertise, relationships and awareness to advocate for policies and programs that prevent litter at the source.

And we imagine a Maryland that we do not have to clean up, but rather one that we simply keep clean. As we work toward this though, cleanup efforts are critical, and there’s no doubt they are a great way to give back to your community. They are family friendly, you can see the results of your service immediately, and for many there’s almost IMG_7369an ineffable satisfaction of putting misplaced things in their proper place – a bag or bin.

So this summer we embarked on an endeavor intended to connect community members to litter and trash pollution in a new way – their appreciation for local, craft beer and the importance of clean, healthy waterways to ensure their brews stay trash free! This initiative – Cheers to Clean Water – is a partnership between nonprofits and for profit businesses committed to fostering cleaner, healthier communities in which they operate.

The inaugural event kicked off on September 8, with over 130 volunteers conducting litter cleanups at one of four sites within the Baltimore City. These volunteers also helped collect certain materials separately in order to help evaluate policy effectiveness of the foam ban in Baltimore, and to support future legislative efforts. In total these volunteers collected over 4,500 pounds of trash and recyclables, 1,687 pieces of EPS foam, and over 600 plastic bags in just over two hours.

IMG_3383.jpgThis partnership allowed us to tap into the networks of local breweries, and put litter in a new light. Local brewery fans became volunteers, who served as community scientists and can grow into advocates for sustainable solutions in order to protect their communities, and also craft beer, such as laws banning foam food containers and instituting fees on plastic bags, improved city or county services and infrastructure, or using their power as a consumer to drive source reduction and sensible trash management. The visibility was invaluable. And the reward – the post-volunteering high, as well as the beverage voucher – made for a lot of glasses well over half full.

Learn more about the initiative and the partners and supporters who made it possible here, and stay tuned for future Cheers to Clean Water events!