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

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!

Measuring Effectiveness of Policy: Designing Evaluation Methodology for the Baltimore City EPS Foam Ban

Written by Molly Cook, Graduate student with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and School of Nursing

The Baltimore City Council and Mayor Pugh signed a foam food container ban into law in April of this year. This is exciting news for many reasons, but for me it became a summer’s obsession. As part of my public health nursing master’s curriculum, my capstone practicum assignment was to design an evaluation plan for the Baltimore City Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Food Container Ban. After meeting with Ashley Van Stone, executive director, and Claire Jordan, advocacy and outreach manager, I settled in to learn everything I could find out about expanded polystyrene foam and environmental policy evaluation.IMG_6614

I searched for hours through literature and policy documents, called experts from non-profits and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and attended city-wide meetings on implementation and coalition development. The most important takeaway from my research and investigation is that evaluation should be built into the design of programs and policies from their conception. Baltimore did not build evaluation criteria into the ban’s conception, but the long implementation period provides enough time to establish baseline data and develop a plan to track it over time.

The second most important takeaway? Policy evaluation is extremely rare, and environmental policy evaluation is even rarer. This makes sense when you consider the level of science, budget, capacity, and political will required to measure and track changes across large geographic areas, and somehow attribute them to any single policy initiative. This is likely why there were no EPS foam ban evaluations available for me to use as models. Building a plan from scratch was intimidating, but it also felt more valuable.

The goal of the ban is to reduce toxic litter and waste in a way that equitably distributes both burdens and benefits. This requires both process (is the ban implemented and enforced well) and impact evaluation (does it work to reduce litter and waste). For the process evaluation, I designed a pre/post-test survey that can be distributed before all business and organizations have switched to non-foam alternative containers, and redistributed a few months after enforcement. The survey addresses anticipated challenges and potential benefits that consistently arise as arguments for and against the ban in city halls and state legislatures. It also accounts for the size of the business or organization to help Trash Free Maryland understand the nature of the burden of switching to alternatives for everything from churches or hospitals, to food trucks or local or chain restaurants.

I was able to select appropriate indicators to measure: amount of litter in neighborhoods and the harbor, microplastic water pollutants, amount of trash that goes to incineration, and microplastic marine life pollutants that are attributable to EPS foam. Some of these are easier to measure than others, and the above criteria are listed in order from highest priority to lowest based on evidential support and organizational capacity in Baltimore. It is also important to note that EPS foam should be measured by volume rather than mass in litter cleanups and trash collection.

IMG_6678The highlight of the summer lay unexpectedly in the trash and debris of Baltimore’s harbor. I went on a trash trawl captained by The National Aquarium along with Ashley from Trash Free Maryland, and staff from  Blue Water Baltimore’s Waterkeeper. Trash Free Maryland drafted a repeatable protocol, borrowed a trash trawl from NOAA, and headed out to collect trash in a net, as part of an effort to establish baseline data regarding EPS foam litter in the city prior to the ban taking effect. We also scooped up an appalling amount of large-sized trash along our route that did not factor into our data.

The data includes anything that our 333-micron net caught. It can now be separated as shown and analyzed to determine how much of the trash is attributable to EPS Foam. Trash Free Maryland can repeat the trawl annually to determine if the foam ban is reducing harbor EPS foam waste. To deepen baseline data, Trash Free Maryland is working through its Trash Free Baltimore Collaborative to connect with partners city-wide on counting foam in their upcoming efforts, to inform the baseline data.


To say I learned a lot does not capture the breadth and value of what I gained from 12 short weeks with Trash Free Maryland. I learned about environmental science, plastics, environmental policy, coalition building, leadership, evaluation, collaboration, and communication. I will never embark on a programmatic or policy intervention without first considering, “how will we even know if this is working?” I will never look at a piece of foam the same. I swim in the ocean with newfound respect for our influence over its health. I look forward to hearing the results from this evaluation of the effort that Baltimore City is making over the tiny corner of our planet they can control.

Four New Members Join Board of Directors

This past July, Trash Free Maryland welcomed four new community members to its Board of 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

Ali DySard, Environmental and Partnerships Manager, MOM’s Organic Market

Ali DySard (1)What is your biggest trash peeve?
Cigarette butts! They are the most commonly littered item in the world, and disposing of them on the ground or out a car window is far too common in Maryland.

What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for the rest of 2018?
My goal is to be a resource for those looking to make a positive difference through everyday choices. We consume and waste so unconsciously, and I believe every thoughtful change or introspection of choice can have an impact.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Creative, connective and supportive

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
The TFM team truly lives, breaths and believes in the trash-free cause, and Maryland’s ability to successfully reach our end goal!

Michael Fields, Analyst, Legg Mason Global Asset Management

mike.pngWhat is your biggest trash peeve?
Actively seeing people litter or seeing someone walk by trash and not pick it up. Also, seeing all of the trash in the Inner Harbor-especially after a storm.

What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for the rest of 2018?
Be conscious of my own waste/recycling habits and reducing my carbon footprint.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Enlightening, transformative and rewarding

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
Have the ability with TFMD to make an everlasting impact on our community and environment for generations to come.

Jack Obermaier, Sales Manager, Monument City Brewing Company

Headshot.jpgWhat is your biggest trash peeve?
It has to be people throwing their trash out of their cars as they drive. Drives me crazy.

What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for the rest of 2018?
I would like to start composting at my home. It’s something I just haven’t pulled the trigger on yet, but something I’m researching more and more about, and specifically composting in the city, because I live downtown.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Education. Awareness. Partnerships

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
Trash Free MD has the conversation in addition to the cleanups. Whether that’s with lawmakers, businesses, or Maryland residents; supporting partnerships and regulations that make sense, and educating the public on ways to decrease waste are just as necessary to achieving cleaner waterways, roadways, and green spaces as any cleanup.

Rachel Thompson, Program Manager, Baltimore Community ToolBank

What is your biggest trash peeve?DSC_4904
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party!I am all about celebrating when there is an opportunity to. Birthdays, bridal showers, anniversaries, pet adoptions, job promotions, whatever else you can think of, I am down to celebrate. I do get miffed about balloons being used to celebrate these events though. These cheerful pops of color only last for a few hours and become nothing but harmful waste once the celebration is over with. If they bust a move and escape from the party they can travel many miles and can be mistaken as food by wildlife. I prefer to use flowers instead, not only do they provide the same pop of celebratory color, but they also bring true life to the party!

What is a personal goal you have relating to waste or litter for the rest of 2018?
I have been trying to reduce my use of single use plastics. This includes using reusable trash bags, not get a plastic straw, but carrying around a metal one, trying to purchase in bulk when I can and always using a reusable water bottle.

Three words to describe how you envision your board service.
Productive, creative and rewarding

Describe in your own words what sets Trash Free Maryland apart?
Trash Free Maryland is committed to long lasting change that positively affect our environment. Not only are they picking up litter today, but building a plan for the future of a cleaner and healthier environment.


EPS Foam Bans in Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis: Recap

Since switching gears from advocating for legislation regarding disposable plastic bags, Trash Free Maryland has focused on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. EPS foam is used widely by food service businesses, hospitals, schools, prisons, and sold by retailers. Currently, Washington D.C., Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County have passed bans on EPS foam.

Foam food packaging is a major component of litter in Maryland’s waterways. Among the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters, the EPA has identified three regions of concern: the Baltimore Harbor, the Anacostia River, and the Elizabeth River. Since 2014, 702,017 EPS foam containers have been removed from the Baltimore Harbor alone. Of material pulled from the Anacostia River before it reached the Chesapeake Bay, EPS foam comprised 25-40% of the trash, by volume.  

While EPS foam represents only 1% of the waste stream, it makes up 10-40% of the litter collected during cleanups. It’s fragile nature causes it to break into tiny pieces upon entering our environment, making it nearly impossible to successfully remove from our waterways. It can rarely be recycled and municipal curbside collection of EPS foam in Maryland is almost nonexistent. Once EPS foam becomes part of the waste stream, it commonly gets washed or blown into our storm drains and rivers, where it absorbs 10 times more pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals than other kinds of plastic, increasing exposure to toxins for marine life.

Legislation to restrict the sale and use of EPS foam food packaging in Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis was jointly introduced by County Councilman Trumbauer and Alderman Savidge on May 7, 2018.

The county and city bills would prohibit food service businesses and institutions from serving food in EPS foam packaging (cups, plates, clamshells), as well as prohibiting the retail sale of these products in the County and City. Additionally, there are provisions allowing businesses to use up existing stock by establishing a grace period in enforcement. Similar to jurisdictions with existing bans, the bill also includes a one-year waiver if no affordable alternative packaging is available, though in jurisdictions with a ban in place, no businesses have applied for such a waiver. The bill would require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to conduct outreach to businesses to support a transition. Enforcement would occur through existing inspections by the Anne Arundel County Health Department.

Following the introduction of this legislation, a coalition of environmental groups, residents, businesses, scientists, and clean water advocates campaigned for their passage. As a coalition, we provided testimony at multiple hearings, surveyed businesses in the area on their current packaging, organized students, talked with county school officials, and met with Councilmembers and Aldermen to answer additional questions on the issue.

The bill in Annapolis has support from the Mayor and most of the city council, but the Anne Arundel County Council was a bit more apprehensive. Ultimately, the council voted to pass the bill 4-3 on June 18th following the addition of a few amendments. Shortly thereafter, County Executive Schuh vetoed the bill. In order to override the veto, the Council needed five votes and neither the coalition or the bill sponsors were able to secure a fifth vote. With robust support from the community, it was disappointing to see progress halted. Rather than phasing out a material we know is a toxic pollutant in our waterways, and thus way of life, a new budget approving funding for a foam densifier was passed. Recycling post consumer foam is an expensive endeavor that is even less viable when considering food-contaminated foam. It is not an economical, ecological, or realistic solution to the waste stream, and even the best case scenario ignores the dangerous implications of foam litter in marine environments. As the state’s leading organization on trash policy, we will continue to push for a statewide ban, and revisit the prospects in Anne Arundel County following the election this November.

The City of Annapolis bill is still pending due to the veto, as the County Health Department handles enforcement within the city limits.The Environmental Matters Committee is set to reconvene on this issue September 19th at 3pm in City Hall and we will follow back up with updates accordingly.

That’s a Wrap! 30 Day Challenge Results

This April, Marylanders across the state engaged in the #30daysofpickinguplitter challenge, started by a Baltimore City resident – Eli Pousson – who wanted to focus on daily action to help clean his community. Thechallenge encouraged Marylanders to pick up litter everyday, take a photo of the litter they collected, and post it on social media using the hashtag #30daysofpickinguplitter. While we know that folks weren’t going to pick up all the litter in all of Maryland, we hoped this challenge would bring awareness to the different types of litter people saw and how prevalent those products are in our everyday lives. Sharing photos and uniting under a single hashtag offered visual support and solidarity, and fostered pretty interesting conversations! Most importantly, it helped to inspire more people to pick up a little each day, on the way toward sustainable litter mitigation and prevention.

29683299_10216636273405570_1313515545542971404_n.jpgAfter soliciting feedback at the end of the month and analyzing some of the social media metrics, below are some of our key findings:

  • 74 people signed up through our online pledge form 
  • 10 people consistently participated on Twitter with 164 posts
  • 17 people consistently participated on Instagram with 116 posts
  • 39 people consistently  participated on Facebook
  • 23 people provided feedback in our May survey
  • All survey respondents said they will continue to pick up litter
  • 10 out of those 23  said it changed their perspective on litter and how to tackle the issue
  • The top three types of litter seen the most by participants throughout the challenge were:
    • Plastic bottles (78.3% of respondents chose plastic bottles)
    • Snack packaging (65.2% of respondents chose snack packaging)
    • Plastic bags (52.2% of respondents chose plastic bags)
  • Other leading types of litter found were straws, cigarette butts, and EPS foam food containers
  • The top three places respondents picked up litter were:
    • Around their neighborhood
    • Around their home
    • While doing something recreational
  • Counties and cities represented by respondents:
    • Allegany County
    • Anne Arundel County
    • Baltimore City – Brewers Hill
    • Baltimore City – Canton
    • Baltimore City – Federal Hill
    • Baltimore City – Hampden
    • Baltimore City – Highland Town
    • Baltimore City – Moravia-Walther
    • Baltimore City – Patterson Park Neighborhood
    • Baltimore City – Radnor Winston
    • Baltimore City – Rosebank-Brackenridge-Bellona
    • Baltimore County
    • Baltimore County – Dundalk
    • Baltimore County – Essex
    • Talbot County – Easton
    • Harford County
    • Montgomery County
    • Prince George’s County
    • Queen Anne’s County

Respondents also provided general comments on their overall experience. Some key themes and takeaways include:

  • There is desire and need for long term education programs that sustain changes in administrations and local governments
  • It was suggested to implement this campaign in other months throughout the year
  • The use of photos was encouraging for folks to continue picking up litter each day
  • Cigarette butts is a waste stream people are interested in tackling
  • Respondents would like to see more partnerships between community members, schools, and local governments to create and sustain year long litter pickup programs

We appreciate everyone who participated in this challenge and provided such important feedback across social media platforms and through our online form. Results from this challenge help inform what kind of campaigns and legislation to pursue in the future, as well as the collaborative conversation we have with nonprofit, government and community partners. Challenges like this reinforce  why preventative policy initiatives and behavior change campaigns are at the heart of our mission to create a Trash Free Maryland!

Press from the campaign:

If you’re looking for a new challenge, check out our “Don’t Let the Summer Suck” campaign! Pledge online here and learn about why straw pollution is a significant issue in the streets and in our waterways!


Don’t Let the Summer Suck!

Did you take part in the 30 Days of Picking Up Litter challenge? Do you want a new thing to focus on to help reduce the personal waste you generate? Then sign up to participate in the “Don’t Let the Summer Suck” campaign to raise awareness around straw waste and encourage reduced use throughout Maryland from June through August 2018.

Straw Resource_campaign flyerIndividuals can pledge to order their drinks with no straw if able* throughout the summer, while businesses can pledge to have a “request only” policy.  Share your efforts through posts and pictures on social media by tagging @TrashFreeMaryland, and using the #strawfreeMD hashtag.  Restaurants will have access to resources and receive recognition for taking the straw-free step!

We hope you will join a movement to tackle trash in your neighborhood, and encourage a culture that not only values clean streets and waterways, but actively participates in the process. Grab your friends and family and stop sucking this summer!

Are you an individual who has taken the Surfrider Foundation – OC Chapter’s #StrawlessSummer pledge or Annapolis Green’s “Don’t Suck. #SipResponsibly” pledge? Feel free to pledge here as well, and include that in the comments! Our organizations are working together to collectively tackle trash pollution in Maryland.

Take the pledge as an individual or make a commitment as a restaurant or food service business here!

*Some in the disabled community need straws. We plan to ensure any restaurant that takes the pledge to provide straws upon request only has straws available for those who need them.

Straw Free Toolkit