The Environmental Advisory Council is nearing completion of a report on expanded polystrene, or EPS, the single-use material more commonly known by Dow Chemical Company trademarked name “Styrofoam.”

After presentations from various organizations about the pros and cons of reducing or banning — and compiling its own research — the EAC will send the finished report to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners with no recommendations, but data to assess.


EPS is mainly used for items like foam peanuts, take-away food containers and soda cups — and supporters of banning the material say it can be blown far distances when it is littered because it is so light, and breaks into small pieces that are difficult to recover. According to the Maryland Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee, EPS also contaminates single-stream recycling, and there is no market for the recycled material.

Both Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have enacted EPS bans.

“We aren't recommending the ban,” said EAC Staff Liaison and Secretary Brenda Dinne, “just saying [what] is a possible repercussion or side effect.”

One possible repercussion staff discussed at their Wednesday afternoon meeting was the chance the Dart Container Corporation would stop its EPS recycling program in the county if the product was banned.

The company is the only one that currently handles recycling of the product in Carroll, according to the EAC.

Dart Corporation representative Paul Doe, “indicated that in other counties that where there was a ban that they did not collect recycling in those counties,” Dinne said this week, “because they felt like if their product wasn’t welcome, then there wasn’t a need for collecting it in those jurisdictions.

“He didn’t say that would happen in Carroll County,” she said. “He said that would happen in other counties where there was a ban in effect.”

In light of a recent Baltimore Sun article on "wishcycling," the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council and recycling manager are reminding residents what they can and cannot recycle...

“We need to include in this report if there is a ban that is enacted there are definitely going to be some side effects of the ban,” said EAC Chair Frank Vleck at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting. “I was thinking, obviously Dart isn’t going to want to do recycling in Carroll County anymore.

“They don't do it with Montgomery and Prince George’s County,” he said. “But also, then what will happen to their facility in Hampstead? You don't know what kind of snowball effect this could have.”

Exactly how much of the county’s EPS goes to Dart’s Hampstead facility — which employs 69 part-time and full-time employees — is unknown, staff members said, because many residents throw it in the garbage.

But according to data the EAC found, EPS takes up a lot of space while weighing very little, and therefore isn’t as profitable as other recyclable materials.

“It seems like it’s more of a PR operation,” EAC Member Jesse Drummond said Wednesday. “It’s subsidized recycling. My take was: It’s so that they can say [EPS] is being recycled, it is recyclable and there is a market for it — even though they’re not making any money off it.”

Sydney Jacobs, chair of the Maryland Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee, showed the council in her presentation this week that it takes 60 No. 6 EPS foam cups to match the weight of 22 No. 6 plastic cups, and that they are six times as voluminous.

“These things are so small and so light, it doesn’t add up that there’s going to be a whole lot of money in recycling them,” Vleck said.


In addition to information on bans in surrounding counties and concerns with EPS, Dinne said, options from public outreach and education to legislation will be explored in the report, which will be finished by the fall.

Nothing has been proposed to commissioners, she said, the information is only being compiled so they can learn about issues surrounding the single-use foam products in Maryland and the nation.

More information on the various presentations given to the EAC this week from the Maryland Sierra Club Zero Waste Committee, Dart Corporation, Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services and the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center can be found on the EAC section of the Carroll County Government website.