Environment

Maryland Could Be First State to Ban Styrofoam -- is PA Next?

Lawmakers say polystyrene is maybe the biggest source of litter which spoils the landscape and endangers birds and animals.


People in Maryland are proud of their beaches. They don't want these popular spots for nature lovers and tourists spoiled with litter, which is why they may be about to become the first state in the nation to completely ban polystyrene foam containers, commonly known as styrofoam.

Maryland's legislature has approved bills to get rid of styrofoam, and a conference committee is expected to easily resolve discrepancies between the House and Senate versions. What's unclear is whether the state's Republican governor will sign it.

Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman is the primary sponsor of the House bill. She said banning foam products is the first step to curbing people's reliance on single-use plastics. "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." Lierman told CNN .

"Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods." Delegate Brooke Lierman, D-Maryland

The head of the Maryland Retailers Association told CNN the ban could hurt Maryland businesses who rely on polystyrene containers, especially restaurants. A chemical manufacturer trade association is also opposed, saying foam packaging "has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives."

Still the popularity of styrofoam appears to be waning because of environmental concerns. Several communities in Maryland have already introduced foam bans, including Montgomery and Prince George's counties. New York City also bans foam containers. And some companies, like Dunkin' Donuts and Ben & Jerry's have already promised to phase out single-use foam containers. Styrofoam is considered an easy target for environmentalists because it tends to break into smaller pieces, it's light so it's hard to clean up, and wildlife, like ocean birds and fish often mistake it for food.

Lawmakers in neighboring Pennsylvania are keeping a close eye on what Maryland does. State Rep. Tim Briggs has introduced legislation to prohibit restaurants and other food-sellers from using single-use polystyrene containers to dispense prepared foods.

"We've all seen takeout cups and containers littering the sides of our roadways. Polystyrene can take hundreds of years to decompose, and in the meantime it clogs our local waterways and poses a threat to birds and marine life," said Briggs, a Democrat from eastern PA.

"My legislation would help us to reduce our overall impact on the world around us." Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Pennsylvania

Briggs introduced similar legislation last session but it didn't go anywhere. Last fall he joined environmental groups to announce 15,000 signatures on a petition supporting the ban.

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