Plastic Pollution, Expanded Polystyrene Foam
May 23 2019

Maryland Bans Foam

by Matt Gove

This week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that he will allow legislation banning expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food service products to take effect, despite declining to sign the legislation himself. EPS foam is a particularly detrimental pollutant because it does not biodegrade, but simply breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. For that reason it is a major source of litter in Maryland's communities and waterways.

The Ocean City Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been pushing for this bill for a few years now, contributing data from their beach clean ups, emailing and calling their elected officials, and providing in-person testimony on the legislation in Annapolis. The Chapter thanks Ocean Friendly Restaurant Mother's Cantina for providing written testimony in support of this legislation. This legislation could not have been passed without the leadership and action from Trash Free Maryland, thanks for leading the charge!

 

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Starting in July 2020, the legislation bans the use of EPS foam cups, plates, and containers for packaging food and beverages, as well as the retail sale of these products. Products packaged before they arrive at a food service business, or foam used to package raw meat, poultry or seafood are allowed.

There are many reasons to ban EPS foam:

  • It is made from fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals that may leach out over time, especially if in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food
  • Animals can mistake EPS foam for food or nesting materials
  • Although inexpensive to buy, EPS can be expensive to clean up. Many municipalities that have to comply with storm water regulations limiting trash in waterways spend substantial taxpayer dollars trying to remove EPS foam
  • EPS recycling is rarely economical to recycle, so most of it gets landfilled or littered. 

Surfrider has been on the forefront of banning harmful EPS foam:

This year the San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation banned polystyrene foam in their city joining over 100 other municipalities in the state saying no to foam.  We now have over 200 plastic pollution victories and many have reduced polystyrene foam pollution. 

Check out our campaigns page to get involved in a plastic pollution campaign near you!