Maine has taken a significant step to battle the generation of waste products: banning Styrofoam. The bill, which was signed into law earlier this week by governor Janet Mills, will prohibit restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and grocery stores from using polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers starting January 1, 2021. Polystyrene cannot be recycled and ends up in landfills, producing greenhouse gas methane emissions that speed up climate change.
Maine is the first state to sign into law a ban against polystyrene. "Polystyrene cannot be recycled like a lot of other products, so while that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not," Governor Mills said in a statement. "In fact, it will be around for decades to come and eventually it will break down into particles, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife, and even detrimentally impacting our economy."
The ban will also prohibit the use of plastic beverage stirrers. And while the fine for violating the new law isn’t too steep (just $100), legislatures and environmental advocates alike hope it will be enough to greatly reduce waste in the state. Fifteen towns in Maine have gotten a head start on the law, having already banned foam food containers within town lines due to their negative environmental impact.
"Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution," said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). "With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics — starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam."
According to the NRCM, over 256 million disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in Maine, the great majority of which are single-use. This needs to change if we hope to put less pressure on our planet and Maine’s commitment to the cause should be a model to other states to move forward with similar regulations.