Maine has become the first state to ban food containers made of polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Tuesday that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, prohibiting businesses from selling or distributing disposable food service containers made of polystyrene.
The containers are a “significant contributor to environmental plastics pollution” because they break down into microplastics which can pollute oceans and eventually make their way into the food supply, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
“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. “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.”
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Plastic foam food containers are among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the U.S. and cannot be recycled in Maine, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
“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,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine project director.
Groups supporting the plastic industry opposed the bill, saying it wouldn’t solve the littering problem and doesn’t ensure alternative packaging will be environmentally friendly.
“This legislation fails to recognize that litter and improper waste management are independent of material type,” American Chemistry Council lobbyist Margaret Gorman wrote in a statement to Maine lawmakers, “All packaging leaves an environmental footprint regardless of the material type.”
Although Maine is the first state to ban Styrofoam containers, some cities like New York City have enacted similar bans. In an effort to curb plastic pollution, California and Hawaii have banned plastic bags and some cities and counties across the country have banned straws.
Maryland’s Legislature passed similar legislation in April, but it’s unclear whether the Republican governor, Larry Hogan, will sign it.
Contributing: Scott Fallon, North Jersey Record, The Associated Press
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
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