Banning Expanded Polystyrene Foam in Montgomery County

On September 9, I introduced a bill (pdf) that that would ban the use and sale of certain forms of expanded polystyrene (sometimes called “Styrofoam,” although Styrofoam is just one brand of expanded foam) in the County.

With this ban, Montgomery County would join a growing list of other communities that have taken action to ban expanded polystyrene, including Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City.

My bill closely tracks legislation passed in Washington, DC, and signed by Mayor Gray in July, 2014. Our implementation timeline would match Washington’s, allowing for a smoother regional effort to raise awareness as well as helping to strengthen the local market for alternative products.

Specifically, the bill includes the following key provisions:

  • Prohibits the use of foam food service products by food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2016.
  • Prohibits the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts) and bulk foam food service products (bulk foam cups and plates) beginning on January 1, 2016.
  • Requires the use of compostable or recyclable food service products by the County, County Contractors, and food service businesses beginning on January 1, 2017.

This is important because foam, which is a petroleum-based plastic, is a meaningful share of the litter and pollution found in our watersheds. 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.’”

Fortunately, there are reasonable alternatives to expanded foam.