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Start of Maryland’s foam containers ban delayed until October due to coronavirus-related state of emergency

Maryland’s ban on foam food and drink containers will not go into full effect until October due to the current state of emergency, the state announced.

The statewide ban on polystyrene, better known by the brand name Styrofoam, was scheduled to begin July 1. Instead, it will start Oct. 1, or 30 days after Gov. Larry Hogan’s state of emergency is lifted, whichever is earlier, the Maryland Department of the Environment announced in a public notice. When the full law goes into effect, a food service business or school may not sell or provide food or beverages made from polystyrene.

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The notice states that the Maryland Department of the Environment decided to postpone the start date as a result of the state of emergency put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The delay does not apply to the sale of polystyrene food service products under section 9-2203(a) of the Environment Article, which continues to take effect July 1, according to the notice. Food service businesses and schools may continue to use existing inventories of polystyrene food service products such as cups, plates, bowls and trays until Oct. 1, but will not be able to purchase additional polystyrene food service products after July 1, as the partial ban will be in effect.

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In a statement provided by an MDE spokesperson, Secretary Ben Grumbles explained the intent behind the change in deadline.

“MDE is fully committed to the success of the statewide foam ban law and is only providing a very limited, 90-day extension of time to help small businesses and schools that weren’t able to use up their existing inventories because of Covid-19," Grumbles said in the emailed statement. "This is solely about finding a modest accommodation for those in need in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, while upholding an important new environmental law that could become a model for many other states.”

Grumbles acknowledged MDE’s decision will not alter the effective dates of any county or municipal laws regarding the sale or use of these products.

Those with questions about the Polystyrene (EPS) Food Service Products Ban may visit the Maryland Department of the Environment EPS Ban page, or contact Cheryl Chaney, community hygiene program manager, at cheryl.chaney@maryland.gov or 410-876-4878.

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