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Environmentalists applaud Maine's governor for signing law to ban disposable foam food containers

'Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again'

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maine has become the first state to ban disposable polystyrene foam food containers.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed on Tuesday the bill that would ban all businesses from using, selling or offering single-use Styrofoam containers, including cups, lids, plates, bowls, trays, and cartons.

"This legislation will create consistency for businesses that operate in multiple municipalities, provide ample time to adjust to the change, promote sustainable Maine-made alternative containers, and take an important step forward in protecting our environment," Mills said in a news release.

Violators could be fined up to $100, according to the bill's text. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2021.

What did supporters say?

The Natural Resources Council of Maine applauded the move, citing that foam food containers are "among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the U.S."

"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," Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine director at the NRCM, said in a release.

The organization claims that the state uses more than 256 million disposable food containers annually.

What did opponents say?

Some who opposed the bill said that banning Styrofoam containers won't solve the litter problem.

"This legislation fails to recognize that litter and improper waste management are independent of material type," American Chemistry Council lobbyist Margaret Gorman wrote in a statement to Maine lawmakers, according to USA Today.

Gorman also pointed out that the ban doesn't guarantee that alternative products would be environmentally acceptable.

"All packaging leaves an environmental footprint regardless of the material type," she added.

What else?

In 1990, the state of Maine banned the use of foam food containers in its facilities and at state functions.

Several cities including Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles County and San Francisco (and many other cities and counties in California); Miami Beach, Florida, and New York City, have either partially or completely banned certain single-use plastic products such as straws or bags.

Maryland passed similar state-wide legislation in April, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has not signed the bill, the Baltimore Sun reported. Hogan has not made clear whether or not he plans to sign it.

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