ROCKVILLE- On Sept. 9, County Councilmembers Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and George Leventhal (D-At Large) proposed a county-wide ban on the use of Styrofoam containers, plastic foam food service products by food service businesses, the sale of plastic foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk plastic foam food service products (bulk foam cups and plates).
Bill 41-14, which is modeled after similar legislation passed in neighboring Washington D.C., will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016 if passed.
“Many studies have shown that these foam products, especially those used for takeout food, makes up a substantial portion of the waste found in our waterways,” Riemer said. “It never biodegrades, but it breaks apart, making it especially difficult to clean up. Recyclable and compostable alternatives are readily available and competitively priced, so there is no reason for any establishment to continue using foam products.”
The bill calls for county-owned businesses, businesses owned by county contractors and other food service businesses to use compostable or recyclable food service ware. Under the bill county officials will be required to keep an updated list of vendors who supply affordable, compostable, or recyclable food service ware products.
“This bill is another great step forward in protecting our environment,” Leventhal said. “In 2012, I sponsored a resolution banning the use of polystyrene food ware by County government, and I applaud the recent decision of Montgomery County Public Schools to stop using polystyrene lunch trays. Because MCPS was able to make this transition, I am confident that the private sector will be able to as well, and we are giving them more than a year to comply.”
The legislation also cites a recent report by National Research Council listing styrene, an oily petroleum-based liquid used in many Styrofoam containers, as a carcinogen for humans and sea mammals.
“This is important because foam, which is a petroleum-based plastic, is a meaningful share of the litter and pollution found in our watersheds,” Riemer said. “Over time, discarded foam breaks down into small pieces, but it does not completely dissolve and it is very hard to clean up. When it is ingested by marine life, it causes harm. For human health, the National Research Council has recently ‘upheld the listing of styrene as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.’”
If the bill is passed, Montgomery County will join jurisdictions like New York City, Minneapolis, Seattle and the state of California, all of which have banned the use of Styrofoam containers.
The county council will hold a public hearing regarding bill 41-14 on Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m.