Maine became the first U.S. state to ban single-use foam containers this week, a major legislative victory meant to curb the flow of plastic pollution.
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill banning products made completely or partially of polystyrene on Tuesday. The products are often used just once before they’re thrown away, but they can survive in the environment for generations.
“While that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not,” Mills said in a statement. “In fact, it will be around for decades to come and eventually it will break down into particles, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife, and even detrimentally impacting our economy.”
The legislation will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021, providing businesses “ample time” to adapt, the governor said. Violators could face up to $100 in fines.
Some businesses will be exempt, including hospitals, seafood companies and state-funded Meals-on-Wheels programs, according to The Associated Press.
Environmental groups hailed the measure, saying it solidified the state’s reputation as a leader on green causes. Mills has taken a hard line on climate change as well, proposing a 27-member panel of experts this week to help the state dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Maine has proven itself as an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution,” Sarah Lakeman, a sustainability director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in a statement. “We need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics ― starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary foams like plastic foam.”
Many states have made strides in tackling plastic pollution. Maryland’s legislature passed a similar measure earlier this month, although it’s currently on the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has not said yet if he would sign it. Other states, including New York, have set their sights on banning plastic bags, and Hawaii has proposed a sweeping measure that would prohibit most plastic in restaurants.
CBS notes that Vermont, Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey have also eyed Styrofoam containers.
The Maine bill was met with fierce resistance from those in the plastics industry. Omar Terrie, a director of the American Chemistry Council, a plastics advocacy group, told the AP he hoped the governor would reconsider the measure after she sees “how it will negatively impact the environment and local businesses and consumers.”
This story is part of a series on plastic waste, funded by SC Johnson. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the company.