Maryland will become the first state to achieve a bubble-free state. How much will it cost? -Baltimore Sun

2021-11-11 08:07:19 By : Ms. Eva Tian

Approximately 115,000 Styrofoam cups and take-out containers washed up Jones Falls in Baltimore last year-but this is only an estimate, because many of them have become debris and small particles when they float to the inner harbor.

As one of the most common plastics, foam is a difficult contaminant. It is everywhere, but it is difficult to recycle. It keeps breaking down into pieces, but is not considered biodegradable. When an animal mistakes foam particles for food, it usually absorbs toxins from the environment and transports them into the food chain.

The lawmakers in Maryland decided that the solution was to ban the substance commonly known as Styrofoam. From July 1, 2020, the state will be the first state in the country to ban most foam products (cups, plates, bowls, and flip-top containers) from restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores. Violators will face a fine of up to $250.

This move will put Maryland at the forefront of environmental policy making, and will further expand the effectiveness of local bubble bans in Montgomery and Prince George's counties that supporters say. But this frustrated business owners like Eric King, who said the law would push up the cost of his restaurant and carry-over business.

At the Neptune Crab House in Ellicott City, King uses durable recyclable plastic containers to provide customers with leftovers. But for the carry-over of the business, he said that the foam container is the only affordable container that can keep steamed shrimp or French fries warm without getting wet.

"This will push up prices," he said, estimating that the price of plastic substitutes will increase from 5 cents per foam container to $1 or more. "This is not something you can absorb."

Proponents say that restaurants elsewhere have accepted the ban, but it has no significant impact on them or their customers. Adam Ortiz, the former environmental director of Prince George’s County, said that since Prince George’s County and Montgomery County approved the bubble ban in 2016, no company has voluntarily asked for exemptions, and the river bank has become significantly cleaner. He is now serving similar roles in Montgomery. Position.

"When hundreds of other companies choose more sustainable products, it's hard for restaurants to prove that they need Styrofoam," Ortiz said. "We can hardly see Styrofoam on the side of the road or in the stream."

Maryland will soon become a test case of whether the entire state can truly be bubble-free. (Hawaii is also considering implementing a statewide ban this year, but the legislature delayed the bill.)

The legislation faces potential veto power from Governor Larry Hogan, who has yet to publicly state his position. A spokesperson said that Republican executives are reviewing it.

The mayor of Baltimore signs a ban to ban the use of foam food containers and provide sugary drinks on children's menus

However, due to the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly, any veto power may be overturned. The legislators and advocates who promote the bubble ban have turned their attention beyond the governor, hoping that the measure will raise people's awareness of bubble pollution, not just bubble pollution.

Del. Brooke Lierman is a Baltimore Democrat. He and Montgomery Democratic Senator Cheryl Kagan co-supported the proposal. He said that the bubble ban is just a "first step" away from the disposable consumer culture.

"I hope people will realize,'My streets are cleaner, our rivers are cleaner, I don't see this form of garbage, I won't even miss it', and hope to do more to eliminate it once. Sexual use of plastic comes entirely from our lives," Lierman said.

Measuring foam contamination is difficult because approximately 95% of the material has almost no weight. It consists of air bubbles trapped in plastic. But the environmental organization that cleaned it from roadsides and swamps said it constitutes a large amount of waste sent to landfills.

Hundreds of polystyrene food containers are often found in trash "trawls" around the Baltimore port. Only the number of cigarette butts exceeds the number of foam containers captured by Mr. Garbage Wheel, one of the three waste collectors operated by the Healthy Harbor Initiative near Baltimore.

The foam ban law aims to eliminate this waste by prohibiting the use of polystyrene foam in restaurants, grocery stores, and hospitals or school canteens. Any company that is considered to belong to the "food service" industry will be banned from selling foam products.

But it did not eliminate all forms of bubbles in Maryland. Grocers will still be allowed to sell eggs and fresh meat, fish or poultry packaged in or on foam trays, but they cannot sell foam cups or plates. In addition to restricting where Maryland residents and companies can legally purchase these items, the legislation will not affect businesses that do not sell food or regulate household use of foam products.

And the policy does not restrict the use of polystyrene foam blocks in packaging to protect electronic products or other fragile products.

Maryland is closer to becoming the first state to ban foam food containers

DART Container Corp., a polystyrene foam product manufacturer, has distribution centers in Havre de Grace and Hampstead, which contain foam product stores that sell to food service companies across the country, but once the law goes into effect, it will not be able to sell in Maryland.

Paul Poe, DART's government affairs and environmental manager, said the company hopes to continue negotiations with the Hogan government to reduce the potential impact of the law on DART and its 800 Maryland employees.

Poe said: "We did not increase shares or anything like that, but we were unable to reach some kind of agreement with the legislators, which is a bit disappointing."

Dunkin' Donuts will stop using foam cups by 2020

Food service business owners say that rising packaging costs are just the latest burden on them by Maryland lawmakers. During the assembly earlier this year, legislators voted to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 by 2025. At last year's meeting, they asked companies with at least 15 employees to provide part-time employees with at least five days of paid sick leave.

"We can't absorb it all," said Wayne Resnick, president of Martin's Caterers, which has 600 employees across the state. "We care about all these things. We care about the people who work for us. When all these things are enforced within a few years, it's difficult."

Business groups including the Maryland Restaurant Association and the Maryland Retail Association have been leading the opposition.

Critics also expressed concern about the cost to the public.

When Anne Arundel County Council passed the foam ban in February, county school officials estimated that alternatives to foam containers could cost nearly $700,000. Opponents believe that spreading it to two dozen public school systems across the state would add up to millions.

When many bubble substitutes are not as environmentally friendly as many people think, opponents question the effectiveness of the ban. They pointed out that some "compostable" paper containers require industrial equipment to easily decompose, otherwise they remain intact in a landfill. Moreover, they pointed out that the market for recyclable plastic containers has been affected in the past year because China has stopped buying them from the United States. Food waste is considered to be a pollutant that reduces the value of recyclable plastics.

But supporters say there are more reasons not to give up the bubble.

Maryland lawmakers finally agreed to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour

More than half of the state's residents live in jurisdictions that have approved a bubble ban — including Baltimore, which took effect in October last year — said Kagan, the Senate supporter of the measure.

Kagan said that while the statewide measure may require more extensive adjustments and increased costs at first, it may help drive demand for cheaper options made from paper, plastic, and even cornstarch and sugar cane. The Democrats said this was the most popular issue she had studied in Annapolis.

"The market will need alternatives," she said.

Advocates for a cleaner Baltimore Port are already looking forward to making progress in the troubled ecosystem.

Volunteers from Baltimore Blue Water, Maryland No Garbage and the National Aquarium trawled the middle tributary of the Patapsco River last summer. The goal is to establish a baseline bubble level in the ecosystem. They plan to repeat it after the city and state. Two bans took effect.

Adam Lindquist, executive director of Healthy Harbour Initiative, said that although Mr. Trash Wheel and his colleagues Professor Trash Wheel and Captain Trash Wheel have jointly filtered nearly 1 million bubbles in urban waterways in the past five years, this is "not pleasant." . story. "

He said that if bubbles were the first type of garbage to disappear, so much the better.

As part of the Earth Day event, volunteers clean up the coastline of the Patapsco River