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.
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.
After soliciting feedback at the end of the month and analyzing some of the social media metrics, below are some of our key findings:
Respondents also provided general comments on their overall experience. Some key themes and takeaways include:
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!
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.
Individuals 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.
*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.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2018
Chris Trumbauer, Anne Arundel County Council, 410-279-7577, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob Savidge, Annapolis City Council, 410-271-1099, email@example.com
Susan O’Brien, City of Annapolis, 443-254-6000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kosmas “Tommie” Koukoulis, Cafe Mezzanotte, 443-739-3942
Councilmember Trumbauer, Alderman Savidge propose polystyrene foam bans for Anne Arundel County and City of Annapolis
Annapolis, Md.– Citing the need to reduce litter and promote more sustainable food packaging, Anne Arundel County Councilmember Chris Trumbauer (District 6) and Annapolis City Alderman Rob Savidge (Ward 7) jointly announced legislation today that would prohibit food service businesses from using polystyrene foam.
“Litter continues to be a problem in Anne Arundel County,” said County Councilmember Chris Trumbauer, lead sponsor of the county legislation. “With more than 500 miles of tidal shoreline and a vast network of creeks and streams, it’s time for us to join the club and keep this harmful material out of our waterways.”
Expanded polystyrene foam is a food packaging material that never biodegrades. It cannot be recycled at any recycling centers operated by cities or counties in Maryland. Studies have shown that exposure to polystyrene foam particles is harmful to fish and other wildlife. More than 100 jurisdictions in 11 states have passed legislation prohibiting polystyrene foam, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.
The county legislation will be introduced at the May 7 County Council Meeting at 7pm.The bill is modeled after Baltimore City’s legislation, recently signed by Mayor Catherine Pugh. The bill would take effect on September 1, 2019, giving businesses more than a year to phase out polystyrene foam. The legislation also directs the county to provide education and outreach about the ban and includes a provision for a warning before any business is issued a citation. The legislation will be cosponsored by Republican Councilmember John Grasso of Glen Burnie (District 2) and will receive a public hearing on June 4.
Alderman Rob Savidge will introduce similar legislation at the City of Annapolis Council meeting on May 14. That bill will be scheduled for a public hearing on May 21.
“I’ve participated in many stream cleanups over the years, and I see polystyrene foam all the time,” said Savidge. “These single-use products harm our creeks and can be replaced with equivalent products at little or no extra cost. Annapolis is ready to move beyond polystyrene to more sustainable materials.”
The city legislation has the support of Mayor Gavin Buckley, a prominent local restaurant owner.
“As a restauranteur, years ago we made the decision to stop using polystyrene foam and switch to more environmentally friendly packaging,” said Mayor Buckley. “As mayor, this proposed legislation is an important part of our environmental agenda to help reduce pollution and achieve our ultimate goal of swimmable and fishable waterways at all times.”
Businesses nationwide are beginning to phase out polystyrene foam. Dunkin Donuts recently announced it will eliminate polystyrene foam cups entirely by 2020. Fast food giant McDonald’s has also pledged to eliminate foam by the end of 2018.
Some county restaurants, such as Café Mezzanote in Severna Park, have already moved beyond polystyrene foam. “Polystyrene foam is a relic from the dark ages of the restaurant industry,” said Kosmas ‘Tommie’ Koukoulis, the restaurant’s owner. “In today’s world of earth-conscience and customer-friendly packaging, our guests notice and appreciate the difference.”
Analysis from Trash Free Maryland, a nonprofit group with a mission to reduce litter, shows that alternative materials are readily available at little or no extra cost:
It’s our favorite month here at Trash Free Maryland: Earth Month! Check out the PDF below to learn of the fun Earth Week Events happening all around Baltimore this month.
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.
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!
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:
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 email@example.com!
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.
The 2018 session for the Maryland General Assembly has been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster, and it’s not over yet. While almost all of our environmental bills have died this session, a few remain. Unfortunately, not all bills die the same. The statewide ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food packaging died a particularly tragic death. House Bill 538 and Senate Bill 651, sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman (D-46) and Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) respectively, were introduced again this legislative session after many lessons learned from last year. The primary difference between the legislation this year in comparison to last year is that packing peanuts were removed from the ban, and schools and institutions were added. This was to promote consistency among existing legislation in the state, and to find compromises with other legislators.
HB 538 was jointly assigned to the Environment and Transportation Committee and the Economic Matters Committee. SB 651 was jointly assigned to the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee. A hearing for HB 538 was held on February 21st and one for SB 651 on February 27th, both of which went well. Following the Senate hearing, the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voted on March 8th to give SB 651 a favorable report, sending it to the Finance committee to vote. On March 9th, prior to a vote from the primary committee (Environment and Transportation) – the House Economic Matters Committee gave HB 538 an unfavorable report. Both motions to give SB 651 an unfavorable and then favorable report died in the Senate Finance Committee on March 16th, rendering the bill dead for this legislative session.
We learned so much this session and will be even better prepared for next year. And without doubt we have made considerable progress this year, both with seeing Baltimore City pass an EPS foam bill, as well as the vibrant, diverse and visible support for policy on this issue at the state level that ensured litter was on the minds of our legislators. But that does not mean we are not frustrated about the ultimate fate of this bill, the least of which being because of the nature of its death. When we look back objectively: three out of the four committees this bill was assigned to took a vote, and that was no easy feat. We also knew that with it being an election year, it was going to be hard to pass what has been a controversial bill in the past. We laid a strong and critical foundation for other jurisdictions to model our framework, as well as to keep fighting at the state level with a resilient coalition of partners invested in this issue.
Below are some of the key things we reinforced, clarified or learned throughout this campaign:
In this process and throughout this campaign, an extraordinary coalition made up of groups representing all impacted communities was formed. Despite our disappointment with its dramatic, and yet anti-climatic, demise this legislative session, this coalition remains energized and committed to getting EPS foam not just out of Maryland’s neighborhoods and waterways, but our waste stream broadly.
Trash Free Maryland, alongside this diverse partner network, will continue to work with other city and county councils to pass and implement their own bans. We will expand our outreach to businesses all over the state to educate them on the benefits of switching away from EPS foam food packaging. We will not stop our work to educate the public on the harmful environmental impacts of EPS foam and encourage consumer participation in driving the market away from this problematic material. Throughout all of this, we will continue our work with the Maryland General Assembly to reintroduce this bill next legislative session.
And importantly, we are encouraged by the passing of a ban in Baltimore City this month and will use that motivation to drive our efforts over the next year, including supporting businesses throughout Baltimore as they work toward implementation. We may have been asking for a #FoamFreeMD for quite some time at this point, but we won’t stop until we are there. Join us as we remain vigilant and vigorous in this pursuit!
Trash Free Maryland is pleased to announce its recent hire of Ashley
Van Stone as Executive Director. Within this role, Ms. Van Stone will have overall
strategic and operational responsibility for the organization. Her work will include
lobbying lawmakers, managing educational campaigns, building meaningful
partnerships in the community, working with donors and funders, and
collaborating with staff on critical programs.
“Ashley is just the kind of entrepreneurial leader Trash Free Maryland needs—an
inspiring professional with a varied background focused on sparking integrated and
sustainable social change,” said Board Chair Karla Raettig. “Ashley is poised to build
on the successes of this effective environmental organization while nurturing our
potential for growth.”
Ms. Van Stone, a Baltimore City resident, comes to Trash Free Maryland after
serving for five years as Sustainability Manager for Johns Hopkins University, where
she worked across all academic divisions. She spent three years working at the
University of Florida Office of Sustainability. Prior to that, she worked as public
relations and marketing specialist at two boutique firms.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Baltimore Community ToolBank, which engages in a number of environmental initiatives to strengthen and celebrate the Baltimore community. She was a member of the Environmental Challenges Working Group of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and she has served in numerous leadership capacities with a diverse range of committees and consortiums.”
“This is an incredible opportunity to focus on the area of sustainability that resonates most deeply with me: waste,” said Van Stone. “It is energizing to identify and develop solutions that address the collective and complex challenges around what we consume and discard. I look forward to partnering with a diverse range of supporters, experts and constituents to transform what it means to live and connect socially and sustainably, and promote lasting change for the prevention of trash pollution.”
Ms. Van Stone officially began her tenure on Feb. 12th. She can be reached via
It is the 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly and we are back again with a bill to ban expanded polystyrene foam food packaging statewide! We know a statewide ban is easier on businesses with locations in multiple jurisdictions and a more effective way to tackle foam litter across the state. Check out our factsheet and please share it widely with your community, legislators, and the businesses you frequent regularly. Let’s spread the word on why Maryland should lead the charge in banning expanded polystyrene foam food packaging and see this bill to the finish line! #FoamFreeMD #MDGA18
Sign our petition and let your legislators know that you want a #FoamFreeMD!
Check out the National Aquarium Polystyrene Fact Sheet.
Are you a business owner interested in alternative packaging? Here’s a list of distributors of recyclable and compostable products. Curious about how this would work? Check out the FAQ from Prince George’s County.
From September 2016-March 2017, five auditors walked through five neighborhoods in Baltimore surveying the litter levels of each block. Those five neighborhoods were Baltimore Highlands, Curtis Bay, Mondawmin, McElderry Park, and Waverly. Auditors surveyed the same blocks on the same day of each week at roughly the same time, and rated litter levels on a scale of 1-4. We chose this methodology because it is comparable to methodology used in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. We analyzed this data to pull out important themes and establish a baseline of litter levels for evaluation purposes of our Trash Free Baltimore campaign and city-wide measures. That data analysis has been finalized in a report and is now available to the public!
What is most important to note is that this project provides us useful information for understanding what impacts litter levels and what role our campaign work plays, and can be easily replicated in future years. We look forward to conducting this project again and seeing how far we have come! Please see it below.