Two Maryland Lawmakers Introduce Measures to Quell Styrofoam Pollution

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Photo by Mattes, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking into the Jones Falls or the Inner Harbor on a given day, it’s easy to spot shards of styrofoam containers floating by or building up. This year, two Maryland lawmakers are hoping to change that by introducing legislation that would ban sales of the foam packaging across the state.

State Del. Brooke Lierman of the 47th District (Baltimore City) and Sen. Cheryl Kagan of the 17th District (Montgomery County) on Tuesday that they will co-introduce bills in the General Assembly that would “greatly reduce usage in Maryland of this dangerous form of plastic.”

For years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified styrofoam, known formally as polystrene, as a major contributor to plastic waste. The material commonly used in restaurant packaging is non-biodegradable and will stick around for awhile if not properly disposed of. It’s also toxic to wildlife and pollutes waterways, environmentalists say.

“Polystyrene is the most toxic type of food packaging,” said Julie Lawson, executive director of the nonprofit Trash Free Maryland, in a statement.

Lierman and Kagan’s proposed law would prohibit sales of polystyrene packaging, ban businesses from selling food in such containers after a given date and allow county health departments to impose penalties for those who don’t abide, among other measures.

Sen. Kagan said in a statement that the proposal would have a “negligible impact” on businesses “but a significant impact on the health of Maryland’s residents and our environment.”

Mitch Jones, a senior policy advocate for Food and Water Watch Maryland, noted similar measures have fared well in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. “We know sustainable alternatives are available at similar costs and businesses have been able to make the change,” he said.

The measure has received support from Trash Free Maryland, Blue Water Baltimore, the Waterfront Partnership and six other environmentally focused groups or agencies around the state.

Kagan’s bill is headed to a hearing in the Senate’s Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs and Finance committee on Jan. 31, while Lierman’s hasn’t been introduced yet in the House of Delegates, according to the General Assembly’s website.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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