ROCKVILLE — The Rockville Mayor and City Council on Monday unanimously approved a bill banning the use of polystyrene carry-out food containers that restaurants often use for take-out and delivery
The bill’s passage means Rockville joins the rest of Montgomery County in banning polystyrene, more commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam. Polystyrene is a petroleum-based thermoplastic material that is often used to make temporary containers for food or packaging peanuts, for which it is well-suited because of its strength and light weight. However, polystyrene is not biodegradable and often finds its ways into streams and rivers as it one of the main sources of litter in the County.
Mark Charles, the environmental management division chief for the City of Rockville said 15 to 20 percent of the litter the city removes from streams contains polystyrene.
Council member Beryl Feinberg introduced the bill at the Nov. 6 Mayor and Council meeting before its passage Monday night.
While council members said they heard no objections from businesses regarding the ban, the City Council decided to forego a public hearing for the bill. While the City Council often holds such hearings for bills, the bylaws of the Rockville City charter do not require it. Still, the City held a 30-day public comment period on the bill before it passed. According to City staff, the ban will affect around 400 restaurants in the City.
“The reaction we have had was … a willingness, a readiness and really not any problem because of the way the law was constructed, allowing businesses that already had inventory – that were the polystyrene or plastic – that they were able to draw them down so that they didn’t have that hardship and that there was a good transition,” Feinberg said.
During the last legislative session Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) sponsored a bill in the Maryland Senate that would ban the material statewide, but the bill did not make it out of committee.
“I think it would be helpful to our state senator (Kagan) and her efforts with the statewide ban if we could get ours in place before the legislative session starts,” said Council member Julie Palakovich Carr.
Other local jurisdictions that have banned polystyrene include Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia.
The ban will take effect starting Jan. 1, 2019.