In a nationwide first, Maine has become the first state to ban polystyrene food containers. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2021.
Polystyrene is a type of plastic more commonly known by the brand name Styrofoam. It is a hard, foam-like plastic commonly used in shipping and food packaging. Like other types of single-use plastic packaging, it can take 500 years or more for polystyrene to break down.
Maine Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 289, An Act To Prohibit The Use Of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers, banning polystyrene food containers into law on Tuesday. The law will prohibit businesses like coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants from using foam plastic containers that cannot be recycled domestically at a recycling facility in Maine. Violations of the law could result in fines up to $100.
The passage of LD 289 is the first of its kind, though other states are currently considering similar laws. State legislatures in Maryland, Oregon, Colorado, and New Jersey are considering bills that would restrict the use of polystyrene containers.
“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,” Governor Mills said in a statement to WMTW. “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.”
While Maine is the first state to ban polystyrene containers, other states have moved ahead with single-use plastic bans. New York and California have already banned single-use plastic bags.
The campaign to ban single-use plastics isn’t unique to the United States. Recently, New Zealand passed a nationwide single-use plastic bag ban.
The National Resources Council of Maine estimates that polystyrene containers are among the 10 most commonly littered items in the United States. The organization estimates that in Maine alone, approximately 256 million plastic foam food containers are used each year.