Opinions have, however, been divided over the move with businesses saying that it will greatly hurt them while environmentalists welcome the ban.
Plastic and plastic products are some of the most dangerous pollutants since they are non-biodegradable and very hard to dispose off. One of the major products made from plastic is polystyrene commonly called plastic foam. We see this product almost everywhere and especially used by restaurants and food delivery companies. Their usage is so widespread that one would seldom find any places to eat that don't use them in the form of plastic cups and containers. Besides food packaging, they are also commonly used in other industries such as automobiles and manufacturing. In a positive sign that such products may be on their way out, Maryland has decided to ban its use and may be the first state in the US to do so reports CNN. Bills to this effect have already been approved by the Legislature. The only thing needed now is for the bill to be signed by the governor and history will be made. The fight to live a more environmentally friendly and sustainable life, at least in Maryland, would also be a first with if the bill is passed. If there was any doubt about this being the first such measure, the Environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council confirms and says, that this would be the first state to implement such a ban.
Brooke Lierman, a Democratic delegate, is the primary sponsor of the House bill and is a worried lady since she has seen the widespread use of plastic foam everywhere. According to Lierman banning foam products is the first step to curbing people's reliance on single-use plastics. She said, "Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods. We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them ... to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space."
It should also be noted that several areas in Maryland such as Montgomery and Prince George's counties have already introduced foam bans. Even though Lierman had proposed the bill twice before, this time she said it was different and ripe for such a measure to be passed. She believes that public opinion has now shifted to recognize the problem with plastic. "We see plastics in our neighborhoods, in our riverbeds and streams -- it is ubiquitous. We've seen major companies like Dunkin' Donuts say they're going to phase out the foam," said Lierman.
Discrepancies and issues between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be sorted out and resolved by a conference committee that will work tirelessly on the same. Lierman said she expects the negotiations to go smoothly and also said that there are "no real substantive differences." It is, however, to be seen whether Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will sign the bill. "Hogan is always willing to consider any piece of legislation that reaches his desk," a spokeswoman for his office said.
While on the environment front, the ban is a great initiative, it's not the case so far as businesses are concerned. Many traders have come out against the move and are calling for a reversal of the measure. Cailey Locklair Tolle, president of the Maryland Retailers Association, said such a law could hurt Maryland businesses. "Not only will costs go up for restaurants and be passed onto consumers, but because comparable products weigh more and many cannot be recycled, costs will increase due to higher tipping fees (based on weight) at landfills," Locklair Tolle said.
The American Chemistry Council, the trade association of chemical manufacturers, also raised their concerns and opposition to the possible ban. They also provided some points in support of their opposition. "Polystyrene foam packaging and containers provide business owners and consumers with a cost-effective and environmentally preferable choice that is ideal for protecting food and preventing food waste, particularly when used for food service. Foam packaging is generally more than 90 percent air and has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives," the council said in a statement.
Many people, residents, and environmentalist are however not convinced with such arguments. "It is probably the most insidious form of single-use plastics," said Lierman. Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland said that the lightweight material easily breaks into smaller pieces, which makes it extremely difficult to clean up. She further pointed out that the foam also absorbs toxins faster than other plastics and is mistaken for food by marine life.
The obvious consequences of this is that the toxins enter the food chain when wildlife consumes such pollutants and makes its way up to people. Van Stone, who worked with lawmakers to pass the foam ban legislation, said. "We know that banning one material is not going to stop and eradicate all litter. But by banning foam we can work to ensure that the material is reduced from entering our environment."