Maine becomes 1st state to ban single-use foam containers

Maine becomes the first state to ban single-use food and drink Styrofoam containers

  • Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill into law on Tuesday evening 
  • The ban will come into affect in 2021 and will save more than 256 million contained from being throw away every year, environmental officials predict
  • The law will prohibit ‘covered establishments’ like restaurants and grocery stores from using polystyrene containers – hospitals will be exempt 
  • Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut are also currently considering similar motions to ban the food and drink containers statewide
  • The environmental legislation faced strong opposition from the plastic industry, food service container manufacturers and Maine business and tourism groups 

Maine has become the first state to ban single-use food and drink containers made from Styrofoam, following a bill signing by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday afternoon.

The law, which will come into effect in 2021, will now reduce the number of Styrofoam containers from being thrown away in the state by more than 256 million per year. 

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) said the state has become the first to enact such a ban in the US.  

Similar legislation did pass in Maryland in April, but it’s unclear whether that state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, will sign it. 

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills (above) signed the bill, which will come into effect in 2021, into law yesterday evening

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) said the state has become the first to enact a complete ban on single-use polystyrene foam containers in the US

Oregon, Vermont and Connecticut are also currently considering similar motions to ban the food and drink containers statewide.

Dozens of communities across the US – including Berkeley, Seattle and New York City – have already passed their own similar bans, some of which date back to the late 1980s.

Environmental groups have lobbied to see the bans brought into law, amid rising public awareness of throwaway plastic accumulating in the oceans and not decomposing.

Companies such as Dunkin’ and McDonald’s have pledged to or have already eliminated foam cups, while towns and cities around the globe are also considering bans of their own. 

In December, European Union officials agreed to ban some single-use plastics, such as polystyrene food and beverage containers, in an effort to curb marine pollution.

‘Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution,’ said Sarah Lakeman of the NRCM.

‘With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics – starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam.’

Mills called it an ‘important step forward in protecting our environment.’ The governor said it creates consistency for businesses while providing time to adjust.

Companies such as Dunkin’ and McDonald’s have pledged to or have already eliminated foam cups, while communities around the globe are also considering bans of their own 

The law will prohibit ‘covered establishments’ like restaurants and grocery stores from using polystyrene containers. Hospitals, seafood shippers and state-funded meals-on-wheels programs will be exempt.

Maine banned foam food containers at state facilities and functions in 1993. Some communities in the state had already banned polystyrene long before Tuesday’s bill signing.

The environmental legislation faced strong opposition from the plastic industry, food service container manufacturers and Maine business and tourism groups, which argued polystyrene is economical and a better way to keep food from spoiling.

Such industry groups asserted that the bill doesn’t mean consumers will stop littering. 

The groups said they’re taking voluntary steps to make plastic package reusable, recyclable or recoverable by 2030. 

As projected by the NRCM, Maine will now cut back on an estimated 256 million Styrofoam containers from being thrown away each year

The plastic industry in January committed to spending $1.5 billion over five years to end plastic waste through a new nonprofit, The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, according to American Chemistry Council lobbyist Margaret Gorman.

‘All packaging leaves an environmental footprint regardless of the material type,’ Gorman told Maine lawmakers in written testimony.

Maine State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Ben Gilman said the bill would raise costs for small businesses in particular while sending a ‘chilling message’ to companies in the state that manufacture food service containers.

‘These types of issues are better dealt with on a regional or national basis due to unbalanced cost impact it will have on Maine businesses,’ he said in written testimony to lawmakers.

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