On February 15th, 2017, the Maryland House of Delegates’ Committee on Environment and Transportation conducted a hearing on House Bill 229: “Polystyrene Food Service Products and Polystyrene Loose Fill Packaging – Prohibition on Sale.” The legislation, which was introduced by Maryland Delegate Brooke Lierman (District 46), seeks to ban polystyrene (otherwise known as styrofoam) food service products due to its adverse impacts on disposal, the waste stream generally, and the environment. While introduced by Delegate Lierman, the bill has also drawn co-sponsorship from the following delegates: Barkley, Carr, Fennell, Fraser-Hidalgo, Frush, Gilchrist, Hettleman, Lafferty, McIntosh, Morhaim, Robinson, Rosenberg, Stein, Tarlau, M. Washington, and West.
The bill’s synopsis reads:
Prohibiting a person from selling in the State specified expanded polystyrene food service products or loose fill packaging on or after January 1, 2018; prohibiting specified food service businesses from selling or providing food in specified expanded polystyrene food service products on or after January 1, 2018; requiring a county health department to impose specified penalties for violations of the Act; requiring a county health department to notify the Department of the Environment specified violations; etc.
Institute for Local Self-Reliance co-director Brenda Platt submitted testimony, urging the Maryland House of Delegates to pass the anti-styrofoam bill. Full testimony is available here. Highlights include:
There are many valid reasons to restrict polystyrene foodservice products. As a mother, styrene’s health hazards are the most concerning. We need to stop eating off this product made from a material associated with human cancers. This is why I do not support continuing its use even if the industry claims polystyrene can be recycled.
Polystyrene is made from the styrene monomer, which is a known neurotoxicant and was elevated in 2011 from being a possible human carcinogen to being reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. This means there is a huge body of evidence now linking styrene to human cancers. No polymerization process is 100% efficient, so styrene remains in polystyrene and has been found in 100% of adipose (fatty tissue) samples, meaning it is widespread and prevalent in all of us. It even crosses the placenta barrier. According to a 2000 World Health Organization report, “The ability of styrene monomer to migrate from polystyrene packaging to food has been reported in a number of publications and probably accounts for the greatest contamination of foods by styrene monomer.” …
When the City of Seattle first banned expanded polystyrene in January 2009, there were only 70 different food service ware items that were certified as compostable. Within 3 years, this list grew to 400. Today, there are over 4,800 items certified. The industry has really stepped up. In addition, these products are competitive especially in areas of the country with styrofoam bans. When wholesalers can stock their warehouses with non-styrofoam products instead of having to stock both non-styrofoam and styrofoam products, they can offer better pricing for the alternative products. In addition, in city after city with styrofoam bans, the Solo Cups and the Dart companies offer alternative products. Do not believe them that this will hurt businesses in Maryland. They can and do make alternative products.
Bill preview is available below:
If passed, this legislation would go into effect on January 1, 2018.
Previous legislation on polystyrene bans in Washington D.C. is available below:
Photo Credit: Nino Barbieri via Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)