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Foam food container ban moves forward in Maryland General Assembly; state would be 1st to outlaw them

Maryland is one step closer to becoming the first state to ban foam food and drink containers.

A bill that would ban the use of the products by restaurants and grocery stores won approval of a state Senate committee Thursday night, sending the measure to the full Senate for consideration beginning Monday.

Proponents of the ban say the containers, which are not recyclable, end up littering waterways. As the containers break down into smaller pieces, some animals mistake them for food and eat them.

“There’s nothing redeeming about it, other than it keeps our coffee and tea hot,” said Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

The House of Delegates version is sponsored by Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat. Lierman said she expects a House committee vote next week on her legislation.

The bills would ban businesses that sell food from using “expanded polystyrene food service products” — sometimes referred to as Styrofoam — starting Jan. 1. County governments would be responsible for enforcing the ban and could impose fines of up to $250 per violation, after first giving a written warning.

Some businesses and school systems have raised concerns that alternative products cost more.

Several local governments have banned the foam products, including Baltimore, although the city’s ban hasn’t yet gone into effect.

The Anne Arundel County Council approved a foam ban on Monday that County Executive Steuart Pittman is expected to sign into law. The council also passed a foam ban last year, but then-County Executive Steve Schuh vetoed it.

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties also have banned the product.

Kagan said the local governments that have banned polystyrene products cover more than half of the state’s population.

“We are now at 52.2 percent of the state that has enacted a foam ban. I think we’re at a tipping point,” she said.

The ban is one of the priorities of the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Chase Cook contributed to this article.

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