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Testimony: Ban single use foam food packaging

By Emily Scarr
State Director

See below for our joint testimony with Environment Maryland in support of SB285/HB109, sponsored by Senator Kagan and Delegate Lierman to restrict expanded polystyrene food service products.

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Environment Maryland is a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. We work to protect clean air, clean water, and open space.

Maryland PIRG is a statewide, non-partisan, non-profit, citizen-funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state and a student-funded, student-directed chapter at the University of Maryland College Park. 

This summer and winter Environment Maryland staff have knocked on more than 40,000 doors to talk to Marylanders about plastic pollution and its impact on wildlife. Staff collected more than 7,000 petitions calling on Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly to support a ban on single use polystyrene. 

For a bird or fish or turtle, it’s easy to mistake a small piece of plastic for food—especially when there are millions of pieces of plastic floating in our rivers and ultimately our oceans. Scientists have found plastic fragments in literally hundreds of species, including 44% of all seabird species, 43% of all marine mammal species, and every single species of sea turtle.    Ingesting these fragments can be fatal. Animals starve when they ingest too much plastic that they can’t digest. 

Scientists are still documenting the scope of plastic pollution and investigating its effects, but we know that plastic doesn’t biodegrade, so every bit of it will continue to threaten wildlife for hundreds of years to come. Perhaps the worst form of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam, used in foam cups and take-out containers. It floats and breaks apart easily into tiny particles, contaminating our environment.

Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our rivers and oceans for hundreds of years—especially when we don’t really need it. That’s why we support a Maryland ban on single use polystyrene.

Of course, there are plastics companies that don’t like this idea. But across the country, plastic foam bans have passed in over 200 cities and communities, including cities and counties in Maryland. Some companies are also getting with the program. By the end of this year, McDonald’s will phase out foam cups and containers worldwide, in favor of 100% recycled materials. 

We respectfully request a favorable report on SB285/HB109.

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