Maine becomes the first state to ban Styrofoam

Maine becomes the first state to ban Styrofoam

Food containers made of Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, will be officially banned from businesses in Maine after governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law Tuesday.

The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2021, prohibits restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and grocery stores from using the to-go foam containers because they cannot be recycled in Maine.

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Maine has become the first state to take such a step as debate about banning plastic bags or other disposable products is spreading across the nation.
 
While states like New York and California have banned single-use plastic bags, others such as Tennessee and Florida have made it illegal for local municipalities to regulate them.
 
Maryland’s legislature also has approved bills to ban polystyrene, but it’s unclear whether Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will sign the legislation. Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman, the primary sponsor of the Maryland House bill, said banning foam products was the first step to curbing people’s reliance on single-use plastics.
 
“Polystyrene cannot be recycled like a lot of other products, so while that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not,” Mills said in a statement to CNN affiliate WMTW. “In fact, it will be around for decades to come and eventually it will break down into particles, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife, and even detrimentally impacting our economy.”

Maine has become the first state to take such a step as debate about banning plastic bags or other disposable products is spreading across the nation.

The Maine law, originally proposed by Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville), also applies to plastic beverage stirrers.
 
Those who violate the law could face a fine of up to $100, News Center Maine reports.
“Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), in a statement.
“With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics — starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam.”
 
The NRCM reports that plastic foam food containers are among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the US.
 
More than 256 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in Maine, the NRCM says.
Some 15 towns in the state have already banned foam food containers, it says.
 
The reason why Styrofoam is difficult to clean up is that it easily breaks into smaller pieces, according to Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland.
Foam also absorbs toxins faster than other plastics and is mistaken for food by marine life, Van Stone said. And the toxins that wildlife consumes makes its way up the food chain into people.

Styrofoam Ban within San Diego City Limits – Polystyrene Foam Outlawed by San Diego City Council

Styrofoam Ban within San Diego City Limits

Polystyrene Foam Outlawed by San Diego City Council

The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 on Tuesday, in favor of an environmentally friendly ban against the use of polystyrene foam within the city limits.

City Councilman Chris Ward is the author of this bill – and he made sure to cast a wide net on the ban.  The ordinance bans the use and distribution within city limits of products like egg cartons, food containers, coolers, ice chests, pool or beach toys, mooring buoys and navigation markers made fully or partially of polystyrene foam, otherwise known by the commercial Dow Chemical Co. designation, Styrofoam.

San Diego City Council voted to ban polystyrene foam

As the face of the bill, Councilman Ward advised, “By passing this measure, the council supermajority has assured San Diego’s role as a national leader in pursuit of a safe, sustainable future and has made San Diego the largest city in California to ban Styrofoam. The negative impacts of Styrofoam are permanent and threaten the health of San Diegans, wildlife, and industries critical to our region. The time has come for us to listen to community groups, nonprofits and businesses that have been advocating for this change for years and move away from Styrofoam and plastics in San Diego.”

Styrofoam (polystyrene foam)

Naturally – there has been push back from small restaurant operators primarily opposed the ban. This cohort contends they cannot absorb the added cost of renewable alternatives like compostable paper.  In fact, the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association asserted that small restaurants and food-service businesses could be forced to pay up to 145 percent more for products other than polystyrene.

Environmental organizations like the 5 Gyres Institute and the Surfrider Foundation, argue that polystyrene’s environmental strain outweighs the benefits of consumer convenience. Polystyrene degrades over the course of hundreds of years; and even then only break down into small particles called microplastics. This is critical since marine and terrestrial fauna mistake polystyrene for food.  This consumption of plastics into the food chain, makes its way back into human diets as well.

“We’ve found (polystyrene) alternatives to be comparable in quality and price, and in some cases, our costs have actually gone down,” said Mikey Knab, a board member of Business for Good San Diego and director of operations of Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant. “This ban levels the playing field for restaurants of all sizes, eliminating the opportunity for anyone to pass on the external cost of using Styrofoam that ends up in our oceans as micro-plastics to marine life and to future generations.”

OKSTRAW Paper Straws are an eco-friendly alternative to plastic and styrofoam alternatives

Other actors on city council threw their support behind the ban as well. New council members Monica Montgomery, Vivian Moreno and Jen Campbell voted on the ban for the first time. During the 2018 mid-term campaign, all three said they support taking action against climate change. However, Montgomery and Moreno suggested the city needs to perform more outreach to restaurant owners who will face the brunt of the cost.

The ban will take effect in 30 days. Restaurants with a gross annual income of fewer than $500,000 can also apply for a waiver of no more than two years.

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