Every year, the Port Tobacco River Conservancy hosts a Potomac River Cleanup at Chapel Point State Park. This year’s cleanup is Saturday, April 14, and is a great opportunity for volunteers to make a difference in the community. Every year, foam packaging makes up a substantial portion of the trash we collect.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food packaging is a major component of the litter recovered during stream cleanups throughout Maryland’s waterways. Unlike other forms of packaging, EPS foam is impossible to fully clean up once it is thrown away. It is a petroleum-based product that does not biodegrade. Instead, it crumbles and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces each time it is touched or disturbed. Once in the water, it will absorb 10 times more pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals than other kinds of plastic, increasing toxin exposure to fish and other aquatic animals, and potentially making its way into the food chain. It is not capable of being recycled in an environmentally effective or economically feasible manner.
PTRC supports a bill that has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to restrict the sale and use of EPS foam packaging in Maryland. Beginning January 1, 2019, HB 538 and SB 651 would prohibit food service businesses and institutions from serving food in EPS foam packaging (cups, plates, clamshells). The bill would also prohibit the retail sale of these products in the state. Grace periods for using up existing stock and state outreach programs would help businesses through the transition.
A 2017 study of retailers of varying sizes in Washington, D.C., after similar legislation was passed in 2016, found that retailers were able to offer other types of packaging at a comparable price, and did not experience ill effects due to the legislation.
Now is the time to encourage our legislators to reduce trash and litter pollution in our neighborhood streets, communities, and waterways, including the many Charles County streams, creeks, and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay. Click here for contact information for Charles County Delegates Sally Y. Jameson, Edith Patterson, Susie Proctor, and C.T. Wilson. Click here for contact information for Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton.