The Maryland House of Delegates just voted to pass House Bill 109, a ban on polystyrene products – Styrofoam cups and containers – by a 100-37 margin. The Senate passed similar legislation earlier in the week by a 31-13 margin. It is expected that the differences between the bills will be resolved fairly quickly in conference.
Misguided cities and counties across the country have instituted Styrofoam bans, in fact, nearly half of Maryland residents already live in areas where such a ban is in place, but HB 109 represents the first time such a ban may go state-wide. HB 109’s language allows for a one-year grace period for businesses to phase out Styrofoam food containers, plates, cups, egg cartons, etc. When that year is up, violators could face a $250 fine.
Opponents to the bill include the Maryland Retailers Association, who report that switching from polystyrene will cost an extra 85 cents for every dollar typically spent on Styrofoam products. They are wary of the bill driving up costs for retailers and having that transferred to consumers. The bill would also put an extra cost on business owners because comparable products weigh more and cannot be recycled, which leads to higher fees being paid at landfills.
The science behind claims that polystyrene is toxic to humans, cannot be recycled and does not biodegrade simply does not exist. Styrofoam packaging currently provides a cost-effective and environmentally preferable choice for food service businesses, and it is foolish from an economic and environmental perspective to encourage banning it.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan may stand in the way of the bill becoming law once a final version makes its way to the Governor’s desk after conference. He hasn’t yet made a comment as to what he will decide, but it is clear this is not the best course of action given the possible financial impact on small businesses and consumers, and the lack of scientific evidence used by environmentalists advancing a political agenda.