A proposed ban would banish polystyrene foam from Montgomery County, Md. restaurants, supermarkets and cafeterias if approved.
County Councilman Hans Riemer introduced a measure that would bar the use or sale of EPS food service products including any container, plate, cup, tray or egg carton as of Jan. 1, 2016. The ban would not include products prepackaged for sale outside of the county nor would it extend to materials used to package raw meat, seafood or poultry.
It would, however, include the sale of loose fill “packing peanuts” in the county.
Montgomery County is a suburb of Washington D.C. and has about 1 million residents.
“This is important because foam, which is a petroleum-based plastic, is a meaningful share of the litter and pollution found in our watersheds,” Riemer said in a press release that accompanied the introduction of Bill 41-14.
“Over time, discarded foam breaks down into small pieces, but it does not completely dissolve and it is very hard to clean up. When it is ingested by marine life, it causes harm.” In the bill's text, Riemer also cited the National Research Council's classification of styrene as a possible carcinogen.
The proposal builds on a 2012 county council resolution booting EPS from local government cafeterias and “encouraging other public and private food service facilities to also consider the elimination of the use of polystyrene foodware.” The new bill, if passed, would require county facilities and contractors to switch to “compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware by Jan. 1, 2017. Montgomery County school cafeterias are also already phasing out foam trays, which have been used since the 1970s.
In July, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray signed a very similar bill—down to the date of implementation—banning the use of plastic foam food containers in the District, which is adjacent to Montgomery Co. New York City, Seattle and San Francisco, have similar bans on foam. The county also has a 5-cent per bag tax on both paper and plastic bags, which went into effect in January 2012.
According to county officials, a hearing on the proposed county-wide foam ban has been set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 14.