When you order carryout from your favorite local diner or ask for a to-go box, the type of container you get is likely one made of foam. For Maryland businesses that’s all about to change, as the state just announced it will be banning foam containers used for takeout orders. (To find out which restaurants may be leaving your town, check out 9 Restaurant Chains That Closed Hundreds of Locations This Summer).
The state law was approved in last year’s legislative session and will go into effect on Thursday, Oct. 1. The original deadline was supposed to be July 1, however, the pandemic delayed the start date. Starting this Thursday, restaurants, schools, and other food service establishments won’t be allowed to serve food in polystyrene (foam) containers.
“Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods,” Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman, the main sponsor of the House bill, told CNN after it passed in 2019. “We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them … to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space.”
The new bill will go into effect during a time when the use of foam containers has increased. With mandated restaurant closures followed by limited capacity dining, establishments have been reliant on to-go orders more than ever before.
At the height of the pandemic, trash collection jumped by 22% in Baltimore. However, the switch to other containers—while better for the environment— is more expensive, and has many restaurants stressed about making ends meet come winter season when foot traffic and overall sales are projected to dip yet again.
The Restaurant Association of Maryland says foam is both cost-effective and durable in comparison with compostable alternatives that are often “twice to triple the cost and do not generally provide the same performance,” Melvin R. Thompson, the trade group’s senior vice president for government affairs, said to The Baltimore Sun. Still, these types of containers are clogging landfills and polluting bodies of water, such as the Chesapeake Bay.
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