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Maryland Del. Brooke Lierman on May 19, 2018, at Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore.
Maryland Del. Brooke Lierman on May 19, 2018, at Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron / The Baltimore Sun)

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.

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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.

Making Maryland "foam free" and curbing the cost of prescriptions are among the priorities Democrats in the General Assembly say they've agreed in principle to push for this session. Under their proposals, Maryland could become the first state to ban polytyrene packaging, better known as Styrofoam.

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.

More than half of Marylanders surveyed support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, according to a new poll. The poll of more than 800 Maryland residents by Goucher College found 57 percent support marijuana legalization. Thirty-seven percent of those polled were opposed.

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.

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

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