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Maine First U.S. State to Ban Styrofoam Containers

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Maine First U.S. State to Ban Styrofoam Containers
Portland Press Herald / Contributor / Getty Images

Maine became the first state to officially ban single-use Styrofoam cups and containers on Tuesday.

Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills called the bill an "important step forward in protecting our environment" when she signed it into law, The Associated Press reported.


The bill would ban grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks and other similar businesses from using cups or containers made from polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam, The Portland Press Herald reported. The ban will go into effect January 1, 2021 and would not cover hospitals, seafood shippers or vendors of pre-packaged meat.

"Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution," Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) Sarah Lakeman told the Portland Press Herald.

Maine is at the head of a growing number of states that are considering bans on the material. Maryland is another early leader: A Styrofoam ban passed its House and Senate in early April with enough votes to override a potential veto from Republican Governor Larry Hogan, National Geographic reported. As of April 24, Hogan had less than a month to sign the bill, or let it pass into law without a signature, according to U.S. PIRG. Once it is officially passed, the Maryland bill will enter into effect July 1, 2020, six months ahead of the Maine bill, according to National Geographic.

Bills to ban foam containers are also close to passing the state legislatures of Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon, U.S. PIRG said. The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators counted 11 states in addition to Maine that are considering legislation on polystyrene.

Municipalities and counties moved ahead of the states in restricting the material, among them Seattle, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, New York and San Francisco, National Geographic reported. In both Maine and Maryland, the state bans followed local restrictions, including in Portland, Maine and Maryland's most populous Prince George's and Montgomery counties. In total, more than 150 U.S. cities or regions have banned Styrofoam, MRCM said in a press release.

Brooke Lierman, a Democrat representing Baltimore in Maryland's House of Delegates, said she introduced legislation banning Styrofoam twice before her third attempt succeeded, in part thanks to a growing movement against plastic pollution.

"I think we've reached a tipping point," she told National Geographic. "People are seeing how ubiquitous single-use plastics are, that they are not recyclable and never going away. People are beginning to understand the importance of living more sustainably."

Opponents of the bills in both Maine and Maryland said they would impose higher costs on small businesses.


"These types of issues are better dealt with on a regional or national basis due to unbalanced cost impact it will have on Maine businesses," Maine State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Ben Gilman told The Associated Press.

Supporters, on the other hand, see the bans as a way to reduce plastic litter in the environment and in waterways. Baltimore's Mr. Trash Wheel, which collects trash from the harbor, gathers an average of 14,000 Styrofoam containers a month. In Maine, 256 pieces of single-use foam are used a year, but cannot be recycled, MRCM said. Plastic foam containers are also one of the 10 most littered items nationwide.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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