Maryland could be the first state to ban expanded polystyrene food service packaging, with the lower chamber of the state's Legislature adopting the restrictions by a wide measure March 12.
The 97-38 vote in the House of Delegates follows a March 5 vote, by a 34-13 margin, in Maryland's Senate to adopt a similar measure. The measure now shifts from the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
Plastics industry groups are calling on him to veto it.
"We strongly oppose this legislation and urge Gov. Hogan to protect the interests of Maryland businesses and residents by vetoing it and pursuing policies that will have real, positive impacts on recycling and sustainability across the state," Omar Terrie, director of the Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group in the American Chemistry Council, said in a March 13 statement.
PFPG said a ban could lead to more solid waste, energy use, water use and greenhouse gases emissions from alternative products, and claimed it would raise costs for Maryland restaurants.
"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 foodservice," Terrie said. "Foam packaging is generally more than 90 percent air and has a lighter environmental impact than alternatives."
But the legislation's supporters said it's a step toward cleaning up pollution from single-use plastics. And they defended a focus on EPS by pointing to new data showing that the trash wheels pulling garbage from Baltimore's touristy Inner Harbor have collected more PS packaging than plastic bottles or bags.
"One of the problems that we are facing and that we're set to solve is the problem of plastics, and the problem of plastics that are ubiquitous in our world and in our state," said Del. Brooke Lierman, D-Baltimore, and the bill's sponsor in the House of Delegates.