Maine has become the first state to ban styrofoam
Maine has become the first state in the nation to ban disposable foam food containers under a bill signed into law today by Governor Janet Mills. The new law seeks to curb harmful foam pollution that threatens health of people, wildlife, and the environment.
“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, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (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.”
The new ban on disposable polystyrene foam food containers will become effective on January 1, 2021. Plastic foam food containers are among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the U.S. and more than 256 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in Maine.
However, foam cannot be recycled in Maine and often ends up contaminating recycling loads, which costs towns money. Comparable or cheaper eco-friendly alternatives to foam are already widely available and are better for the environment because they are either reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
Prompted by concerns from students and encouraged by grants given out by NRCM, public schools around the state have been voluntarily giving up polystyrene foam trays, even when they are exempted from doing so. For example, by switching to more durable, reusable trays Saccarappa Elementary school in Westbrook is avoiding sending 1,300 foam trays to the landfill every week.
The use of foam food containers has been banned in state facilities and functions since 1990. More than 150 municipalities or regions have banned disposable foam food containers, including 15 towns in Maine. Maryland’s legislature passed a bill to ban foam food containers in April, but Governor Larry Hogan has not yet signed the bill into law.