Maryland’s senators have approved a bill that would ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups, starting next year. If the bill becomes law, Maryland would be the first with a statewide ban. Republicans raised concerns the ban would cause difficulty for farmers and small businesses.
Lierman said the differences between the two versions of the legislation would be worked out in a conference committee.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has not taken a position yet on whether he would sign the bill, according to a spokeswoman.
“Under Governor Hogan’s leadership, Maryland has one of the strongest environmental records in the country,” the spokeswoman, Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, said. “The governor is always willing to consider any piece of legislation that reaches his desk.”
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 Senate vote of 34-13 came after days of off-and-on debate, with many Republicans raising concerns that the ban would cause difficulty or increased expenses for farmers, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Josh Young, a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council, the industry’s trade group, testified against the bill at a recent hearing. He said alternatives to foam are more costly for businesses and won’t break down in landfills.
He called the ban a “harsh action” and said Maryland would be the “only state to ban an entire class of safe and effective products.”
“You are forcing establishments to switch to a more expensive product that will do nothing to clean up the environment and in fact increase litter and greenhouse gases,” Young argued.
Proponents of the ban, including sponsor Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat, say foam products are not recyclable and don’t break down in the environment, making them a particularly difficult form of litter to deal with.
To emphasize that point, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore celebrated the House’s passage of the ban by announcing that Mr. Trash Wheel, the garbage and flotsam collector at the mouth of the Jones Falls in the Inner Harbor, has scooped more than 1 million bits of polystyrene since it was launched in 2014.
“Healthy Harbor views these milestones less as a celebration and more of a catalyst for change,” Adam Lindquist, director of the partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, said in a statement. “By collecting and sharing the trash wheel data, we are bringing Baltimore’s trash issue to the forefront, helping to shift behaviors and push for policy change.”
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 legislation contains some exceptions. For example, foam products packaged outside Maryland — such as cups containing ramen noodles — could still be sold. Also exempted are foam products used to package raw or butchered meat and foam products not used for food service.
The ban would take effect July 1, 2020. County officials would be in charge of enforcing the ban, and could issue $250 fines.