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Maine House votes to ban Styrofoam containers

Rep. Stan Zeigler (D – Montville) is the primary sponsor of the proposed ban on styrofoam containers. Photo courtest Maine Legislature website.

AUGUSTA – The Maine House of Representatives on Thursday voted to ban the use of Styrofoam (polystyrene) containers in all Maine restaurants, retail stores, convenience stores, farm stands and other retail locations. The vote broke down along party lines with Democrats supporting the ban and Republicans opposing it.

The bill faced opposition from retailers and those in the food service industry, such as the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, who said the ban would increase costs to Maine consumers because the alternatives to styrofoam would drive up costs to restaurants and other establishments.

They also said that the solid waste footprint under the alternative materials could potentially increase, as the alternatives are frequently not recyclable, but polystyrene is.

Styrofoam costs about five times less than some of the alternatives Maine businesses would be forced to transition to, according to testimony.

The Maine Tourism Association also opposed the bill, saying the businesses they represent do not wish to create any more waste then they have to, but that the businesses they represent, 85 percent of whom employ 10 people or less, must work to provide material that meets customer expectations. They also are concerned about the additional costs that would be added to consumers and businesses under the ban.   

The Natural Resources Council of Maine and several non-profit organizations that focus on environmental activism testified in favor of the bill, with the NRCM saying they have been working to ban polystyrene since 1988 because of their concerns about plastic pollution.

The NRCM also claimed in their testimony that polystyrene is ‘not recyclable’ in Maine, but the Maine Department of Environmental Protection website lists Plastics #1-7 as recyclable materials. Polystyrene is coded Plastic #6, meaning that it is recyclable.

While polystyrene is recyclable, it is not commonly recycled in Maine, and some communities have banned the material. Many recycling facilities also do not accept it.

Still, a strong number of the businesses affected oppose the ban from a cost and sanitation perspective and point to the fact that Maine’s small businesses are facing a host of additional costs and regulations currently pending in the Maine Legislature. They say that continuing to add new costs and regulations will make growing a small business in Maine more and more difficult, ultimately hurting Maine’s economy overall.

The first vote in the Maine House on L.D. 289 An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers was 87 – 51 in favor of passage. The bill requires additional votes in the Maine House and Senate before it could be sent to Gov. Janet Mills for consideration.

The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep. Stan Zeigler (D – Montville) and the following legislators are signed on as cosponsors:

Representative Robert Alley of (D – Beals)
Representative Lydia Blume of (D – York)
Senator Justin Chenette of (D – York)
Representative Michael Devin (D – Newcastle)
Representative Victoria Doudera of (D – Camden)
Representative Michelle Dunphy of (D – Old Town)
Representative Nicole Grohoski of (D – Ellsworth)
Representative Allison Hepler of (D – Woolwich)

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