Last week, Maryland became the first U.S. state to ban single-use foam containers for carryout. Although the legislation banning their use was passed in 2019, it came into effect on Thursday, October 1. Among the items that will be prohibited in the new law include cups, plates, trays and containers. All entities in the state will be affected by the law, including businesses and institutions, such as schools.
Originally, the state had set July 1 as the deadline for implementing the new law. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline was pushed to October 1. Even with the delays, many cities and counties within the state had already implemented the ban early.
Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman was the main sponsor of the House bill that led to the new law. Although she had proposed the bill twice before, it was unsuccessful. But due to the recent climatic events, her colleagues started to shift their positions. According to Lierman, plastics are already hurting our environment, and actions have to be taken now to stop their effects.
“Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods,” Lierman said. “We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them … to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space.”
For a long time, polystyrene foam containers have been the go-to solution for businesses. They provide a cheap option for food packaging and are preferred by most business operators. But they are detrimental to the environment.
In opposition to the new bill, the American Chemistry Council said that banning the single-use containers would vastly harm the local businesses.
“Polystyrene foam packaging and containers provide business owners and consumers with a cost-effective and environmentally preferable choice that is ideal for protecting food and preventing food waste, particularly when used for food service,” the council argued. “Foam packaging is generally more than 90 percent air and has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives.”
Although the law does not leave loopholes for continued use of the outlawed products, the Maryland Department of Environment allows schools and other institutions to apply for a grace period of up to one year. This will only be granted in special situations, where the institution may not be able to fulfill the ban in time.
Image via Jens S.