Maryland may become first state to ban foam food and drink containers

Residents in Maryland might soon be prohibited from taking home their coddies or pit beef sandwiches in foam containers.

A bill that would ban restaurants and store owners from using polystyrene packaging has been gaining steam in the Maryland legislature, with the measure passing 34-13 in the state Senate last week, and 97-38 in the House of Delegates on Tuesday.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the effort to stand up for our waterways, stand up for our neighborhoods, stand up for the world our kids will inherit,” said Del. Brooke Lierman (D), who sponsored the bill, the Baltimore Sun reported.

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The bills introduced at both the Senate and House of Delegates contained differences, Lierman acknowledged, though she said those discrepancies would be sorted out in a committee meeting.

The legislature would still need to be signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, before taking effect.

Under the proposed regulations, food and drink containers made from foam products would be prohibited from use, though any food or drink packaged outside the state and shipped in would be exempt. Also exempt are foam products not used in food service or storage.

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Critics of the bill have argued that the new regulations would put extra financial hardships on small businesses. Some also say the ban would not help the environment, or at least not how its proponents suggest.

"It's an unnecessary burden that isn't going to do anything for the environment," said Sen. Justin Ready (R). "This bill does not move the needle at all on protecting the environment."

Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat, talks about her bill to make Maryland the first state in the nation to ban foam containers for food and drink statewide to fight pollution during a debate on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Annapolis, Md.

Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat, talks about her bill to make Maryland the first state in the nation to ban foam containers for food and drink statewide to fight pollution during a debate on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D), on the other hand, argued that more than half of the state’s residents already live in counties where polystyrene food and drink containers are banned.

"We have the opportunity to do the right thing for the Chesapeake Bay, for the environment and for our fish and wildlife that eat this product," said Kagan, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "It infects them; we ingest them."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.