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.
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)