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.
🚨Breaking news🚨 Maine has just become the first state in the nation to ban polystyrene foam food containers… https://t.co/wpoayagkmK— Natural Resources Council of Maine (@Natural Resources Council of Maine)1556672600.0
"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.
"Both Maryland and Maine have passed a ban on styrofoam food containers! Check out what other states are pursuing… https://t.co/CXh90TEnE6— National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (@National Caucus of Environmental Legislators)1556688307.0
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.
- Schools Ditch Styrofoam Lunch Trays for Compostable Plates ... ›
- 6 Plastic Bag Bans Making a Huge Difference - EcoWatch ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.