UPDATE: Baltimore council votes to ban polystyrene foam
UPDATE March 13, 2018: The Baltimore City Council officially approved a measure to ban expanded polystyrene foam products for "food service purposes" Monday night.
The ban will go into effect 18 months after it's signed into law, according to The Baltimore Sun. The bill retains its criminal fines for violators from previous versions.
- In a preliminary move, a Baltimore City Council committee voted unanimously Monday night to prohibit businesses from using expanded polystyrene foam for to-go food and drink service purposes, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.
- As written, violation of the ordinance imposes a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months imprisonment. The bill currently comes with a 90-day transition period, but the council agreed to amending that to an 18-month transition period. It does not come with exemptions for certain kinds of businesses.
- While largely a formality, the bill requires a full vote in March. Mayor Catherine Pugh has pledged to sign the bill after the council votes on it again.
Baltimore lawmakers have been making attempts to ban polystyrene foam since at least 2013, when similar legislation was first introduced. However, the bills failed each time as members of the city council withdrew their support.
This time around, despite some pushback from the restaurant industry, Councilman John Bullock, the bill's sponsor, was able to gain support from the other lawmakers in Baltimore’s council, including President Bernard C. "Jack" Young.
Other local governments in the region, including Montgomery County and Washington, D.C., have already banned polystyrene foam. Supporters typically site environmental concerns, like litter, and health concerns with styrene, a component of polystyrene foam.
Polystyrene foam can be difficult to recycle, and does not degrade easily in landfills or in the environment. Polystyrene foam in municipal recycling streams can act as a contaminant at MRFs because of that difficulty. Dart Container maintains a map of where polystyrene foam can be collected or dropped for recycling.
Food containers made of the foam can typically be replaced with plastic clamshell packaging or compostable containers, though restaurateurs usually cite a higher cost as a reason for not switching. These concerns have caused bans to backfire before. In New York City, for example, a judge overturned a polystyrene foam ban in 2015, saying that it would not benefit the city, leading to ongoing legal back-and-forth over a ban.
- The Baltimore Sun Baltimore set to ban Styrofoam use
- Baltimore City Council Food Service Facilities - Polystyrene Foam Products
- Waste Dive Inside Baltimore's proposed polystyrene foam ban
- Baltimore City Council Council Bill 17-01117
- The Baltimore Sun Baltimore City Council to pass new regulations, including Styrofoam ban
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