Maryland's ban on styrofoam food and beverage packaging has gone into effect, making it the first state in the U.S. to prohibit the use of the containers.
The legislation comes from Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman, the main sponsor of the House bill, and Senator Cheryl Kagan, the main Senate sponsor. Although the law passed in 2019 and was originally slated to take effect on July 1, it was pushed back to Oct. 1 due to COVID-19.
The law specifically targets expanded polystyrene (EPS), a petroleum-based non-biodegradable foam which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) consider a possible human carcinogen.The ban includes packaging such as cups, plates, carryout containers, and trays.
The EPA estimates 3 million tons of EPS is produced in the U.S every year, with 2.3 million tons ending up in landfills. They report that this can have negative impacts on human health, wildlife, the environment, and the economy through pollution and EPS's potential to take 500 years to decompose.
"EPS foam is really the most damaging form of plastic packaging that exists right now," Lierman told Food Tank. "It breaks into a million little pieces, and so it's nearly impossible to clean up from our riverways and in our neighborhoods when it starts to break down."