Maryland

Maryland Passes Bill to Outlaw Foam Containers

If Gov. Larry Hogan signs the measure into law, Maryland will be the first state to issue a ban on foam food containers.

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Zkruger | Dreamstime.com

Maryland is poised to become the first state to ban foam containers.

Both the House of Delegates and the state Senate approved bills last week to outlaw cups and containers made of polystyrene, more commonly known as plastic foam.

"I'm thrilled to be a part of the effort to stand up for our waterways, stand up for our neighborhoods, stand up for the world our kids will inherit," Del. Brooke Lierman (D–Baltimore), who spearheaded the effort, said on the House floor.

But if Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signs the bill into law, Lierman will also have to stand up to the additional pollution she will have created. A peer-reviewed study by Franklin Associates found that paper-based and corn-based alternatives consume considerably more energy and water than Styrofoam, because they're significantly heavier. Foam containers are made up of more than 90 percent air and therefore pose a less sinister threat to the environment, researchers concluded.

"A ban on polystyrene foam packaging and containers could lead to increased solid waste, energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions," said the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in a statement.

Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland, argues that that the material itself is the problem: Foam is known to break into smaller pieces, making it hard to dispose of. "We know that banning one material is not going to stop and eradicate all litter," Van Stone tells CNN. "But by banning foam we can work to ensure that the material is reduced from entering our environment."

She's correct that communities would certainly encounter fewer of those flaky cups. But while corn-based replacements in particular are in vogue, the Franklin Associates' study notes that they do "not biodegrade in landfills" where they often end up. That means that, with a ban on foam, waterways and neighborhoods might see more litter overall.

And the burden would be financial as well, particularly for restauranteurs who rely on foam to package food affordably. "Not only will costs go up for restaurants and be passed on to consumers, but because comparable products weigh more and many cannot be recycled, costs will increase due to higher tipping fees (based on weight) at landfills," Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, tells CNN.

New York City's own foam ban took effect on Jan. 1, and industry groups say that packaging alternatives will run restaurants about double the previous cost.

A majority of the world's plastic waste—about 60 percent—comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The U.S. contributes a whopping 1 percent.

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22 responses to “Maryland Passes Bill to Outlaw Foam Containers

  1. But while corn-based replacements in particular are in vogue, the Franklin Associates’ study notes that they do “not biodegrade in landfills” where they often end up. That means that, with a ban on foam, waterways and neighborhoods might see more litter overall.

    Don’t bet on it. Those corn starch packing nuts will be the only food available before long.

  2. If the crony capitalists hadn’t screwed everyone else over for so long, we’d already be using HEMP!

  3. A majority of the world’s plastic waste?about 60 percent?comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The U.S. contributes a whopping 1 percent.

    A journey of 100 percent begins with the first 1 percent.

    1. The US is all about the one percent.

  4. I realize this is more about “foam” than plastic, but disappointed I didn’t see any reference to another alternative from either the author or the politicians….Hemp based plastic that bio-degrades in less than 80 days.

    1. Damn, is there anything hemp can’t do? If I were to list all the magical properties of hemp, it would read like a list made while stoned.

    2. Like the corn-starch-based products, however, it does not biodegrade in a landfill.

  5. polystyrene, more commonly known as plastic foam

    This is backwards. I’ve sat through two semesters of polymer chemistry and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use the term ‘plastic foam’ to refer to polystyrene until just now.

    1. Wow, aren’t you Mr Smartypants Superchemist. Maybe it’s not “commonly known” as such among super-sciency smartypants such as yourself.

      1. Maybe it’s not “commonly known” as such among super-sciency smartypants such as yourself.

        That may be true, but around the job site people usually call it sheet insulation, styrofoam, (poly)styrene sheeting, foam board insulation, etc.

        If I said ‘plastic foam’ I would expect an exchange iterating through all the permutations of plastic and foam.
        “You mean visqueen?”
        “No, plastic foam!”
        “Oh, foam rubber?!”
        “No, plastic foam insulation!”
        “Ah, polyurethane foam!”
        “No, plastic. foam.”
        “Oh, you mean polystyrene?!”
        “Yes.”
        “Why didn’t you just say that?

        Plastic foam sounds like something people in the remote parts of Minnesota and Pennsylvania would say right before taking a drink from the bubbler.

        1. people in the remote parts of Minnesota and Pennsylvania

          IOW, commonly known.

          1. IOW, commonly known.

            IOW, not *more commonly known*.

        2. TBF, plastic foam could be polystyrene, polyurethane, or even polyethylene terephthalate.

    2. It’s not about the facts, it’s about the feelz. Get with the program!

  6. To be replaced with containers that contain more petroleum product than the foam container because foam has a lot of air in it?

  7. TRUE CONSERVATISM!!!

  8. That’s OK. I never liked foam food anyway.

  9. “”A ban on polystyrene foam packaging and containers could lead to increased solid waste, energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions,” said the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in a statement.”

    Given the state legislature’s lack of knowledge of the actual issues (as opposed to favoring grandstanding), it’s a pretty sure bet that the measure *WILL* lead to those results. And increased costs in ways not yet imagined.

  10. More gross stupidity. In Calif. my town has blown polystyrene-Styrofoam take out containers. The replacement is often molded polystyrene. The same material, in slightly larger quantity, but does not insulate nearly as well. Net difference, higher costs, worse performance and zero difference on what plastics are used or end up in the environment.
    Stupid is as stupid does………………………..

  11. Maryland’s new motto: We Can Do Stupid Too!

  12. FASCISM defined: government control of private means of production.

    If dictating what type of containers a private means of production may use in their operation is not fascism, there never ever was any iota of this political philosophy operative anywhere ever.

  13. Styrofoam containers are already banned in Montgomery County where all the DC government parasites live and provide much of the Maryland government’s revenue – at the expense of the rest of the country.

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