ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's Senate voted Tuesday to make the state the first in the nation to ban foam containers for food and drink to fight pollution.
The Senate voted 34-13 for the measure, which now goes to the House of Delegates.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who's sponsoring the bill, says more than half of the state's residents already live in places where foam containers are banned for food and drink containers. She described it as a chance to do more to help the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary.
"We have the opportunity to do the right thing for the Chesapeake Bay, for the environment and for our fish and wildlife that eat this product," Kagan said. "It infects them; we ingest them."
But opponents said the bill only covers a small amount of foam material used in food and drink containers, not for other uses such as packaging. They also said the measure would hurt small businesses.
"It's an unnecessary burden that isn't going to do anything for the environment," said Sen. Justin Ready, a Republican. "This bill does not move the needle at all on protecting the environment."
The measure would ban businesses that sell food from using "expanded polystyrene food service products" starting July 1, 2020.
There currently are no statewide bans on foam food and drink containers, according to a review by state analysts. However, some local jurisdictions across the country have introduced measures to ban or partially ban the use of expanded polystyrene foam.
Supporters note that foam drink and food containers cannot be recycled. The bill has been named as a priority this year among Democrats, who control both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly. The measure received some Republican support in the Maryland Senate.
Sen. Bryan Simonaire, a Republican, said all have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment. He also noted that large chain restaurants have moved away from using foam food containers, some of them long ago.
"Thirty years ago they stopped producing them, and we say, 'let business catch up. Let business catch up.' I think 30 years is long enough for them to catch up," Simonaire said.