In 2018, the Golden State banned restaurants from serving single-use plastic straws. California also has the strictest vehicle-emissions standards in the country. However, the progressive-leaning state, a world leader in climate and environment policy won’t be able to boast that it’s first in the nation to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS), better known as Styrofoam. The state that has earned that distinction is, drum roll, please … Maryland.
FoodTank.com reports that Maryland’s ban on Styrofoam products includes cups, plates, carryout containers and trays. EPS is considered a possible human carcinogen. In 2018, styrene, which is the building block of polystyrene, was labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) says that single-use plastic products made from polystyrene are responsible for “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is a floating mass of plastic debris in the ocean twice the size of Texas.
Polystyrene, which is derived from petroleum, is detrimental to the environment and to wildlife because it doesn’t break down (biodegrade ). Dozens of species of animals ingest plastic fragments, sometimes fatally.
The State of Maryland initially passed the law to ban polystyrene last year, but due to the pandemic, the law took effect later than planned.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the WHO’s cancer research agency consider polystyrene to be a possible human carcinogen. The latter of the two organizations also labeled glyphosate, the controversial active ingredient in Roundup Weed Killer, and the focus of over 125,000 lawsuits, carcinogenic. However, the EPA maintains that glyphosate is safe and carries no risks when users follow the instructions on the label.
Considering the divergent viewpoint the two agencies have on glyphosate, it speaks volumes that both organizations classify EPS as a carcinogen.
FoodTank reports that the EPA estimates that 3 million tons of EPS is produced in the U.S every year. The overwhelming majority of the styrofoam ends up in landfills; it takes approximately five centuries for the compound to decompose.
Brooke Lierman, co-sponsor of the bill, told FoodTank, “EPS foam is really the most damaging form of plastic packaging that exists right now,” said the Democratic House delegate, who added, “It breaks into a million little pieces, and so it’s nearly impossible to clean up from our riverways and in our neighborhoods when it starts to break down.”Not surprisingly, the food and beverage industry has mounted a counterattack on Styrofoam bans.
By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be, per pound, more plastic in the ocean than fish. Food Tank gives bill sponsor, Lierman, the final word on why Maryland passed the bill: “I don’t want to live in that world and I don’t want my kids to have to live in that world either,” the lawmaker said.