Maine is taking a step for Mother Nature. The state is the first in the country to ban polystyrene, or what is commonly known as styrofoam, after governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law.
The law will take effect on January 1, 2021, and will prohibit restaurants, coffee shops, caterers, and grocery stores from using food containers made of styrofoam.
Although this material is recyclable, Maine has no place to recycle it, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM).
“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. 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,” Mills said in a statement.
The top 10 most commonly littered items in the country include plastic foam food containers. Each year, in Maine alone, 256 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, and trays are used each year, according to data from the NRCM.
Foam that is trashed in Maine usually contaminates recycling loads which cost towns money. Once the law takes effect, the state will switch to using more eco-friendly alternatives.
The law, which was originally proposed by Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville), also applies to beverage stirrers made of plastic. Violators could face a fine of up to $100, according to reports by News Center Maine.
Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Director at the NRCM, said in a statement:
“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. 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.”
Although Maine is the first to ban styrofoam, other states in the country have implemented similar laws. New York and California have banned single-use plastic bags, while Tennessee and Florida have outlawed local municipalities to regulate them.
Styrofoam is also difficult to clean up because it easily breaks into smaller particles. Aside from that, foam also absorbs toxins faster, and marine life could mistake it for food when it finds its way into the ocean. These toxins then make its way up to the food chain to be consumed by humans.
It’s good that debates regarding the ban on disposable products, single-use plastics, and waste management are spreading across the nation. It just shows that people are becoming more aware of its detrimental effects to the environment. These discussions are being heard by the legislature as more and more states are doing their part in reducing the country’s carbon footprint.
We still have a long way to go, but the enactment of such policies proves that we are progressing as a nation when it comes to environmental conservation efforts.