Maryland Will Be First State to Ban Foam Food Containers
Maryland will become the first state in the nation Thursday to implement a ban on foam takeout containers.
The law, which was passed in 2019, prohibits restaurants and other institutions that serve food, such as schools, from using polystyrene containers, The Baltimore Sun reported.
"Single-use plastics are overrunning our oceans and bays and neighborhoods," chief bill sponsor Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman told CNN when it passed. "We need to take dramatic steps to start stemming our use and reliance on them ... to leave future generations a planet full of wildlife and green space."
Lierman said she had tried twice before to pass the bill, but a shift in public opinion against plastic pollution finally pushed it over the finish line.
The law was originally scheduled to go into effect July 1, but officials delayed it by three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported further. Dining has shifted from table service to takeout, and the government wanted to give impacted businesses more time to use up their extra foam, The Baltimore Sun explained.
Some restaurant owners still oppose the ban, arguing that foam containers are cheaper and longer-lasting than alternatives.
"We don't like increased costs," Dan Schuman of Captain Dan's Crabhouse in Eldersburg told The Baltimore Sun. "No restaurant does. Because we have to pass that onto the customer."
He said he was raising prices to cover the cost of new plastic containers, as well as an upcoming minimum wage increase.
However, other restaurants have already made the change on their own and were pleased with the results. Victoria Gastro Pub bar manager Megan Purcell said the Victoria Restaurant Group switched to compostable takeaway containers two years ago.
"It's just the right thing to do and it was time," Purcell told WMAR.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, say the ban will help fight the climate crisis, because foam containers are made from fossil fuels, The Baltimore Sun reported. It will also keep the containers out of waterways.
This has already been the case for Maryland localities and cities that have banned foam containers ahead of the state, including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
In Baltimore, the trash wheels that prevent rubbish from entering the Inner Harbor reported a 40 percent reduction in polystyrene containers caught in their spokes.
Maine, New York and Vermont have passed similar bans, but they have not yet taken effect. Maryland regulators hope that their ban can be a model for these states and others considering phasing out the use of foam containers.
"We will learn how best to implement it," Maryland environment secretary Ben Grumbles told The Baltimore Sun, "and other states will watch us closely."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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