While getting rid of Styrofoam food containers hasn't quite taken off the way eliminating plastic straws has, the movement has been steadily gaining momentum on city and county levels over the past few years. To name a few examples: Seattle has been foam-free since 2009, Minneapolis followed suit in 2015, and that same year New York City banned the sale or use of Styrofoam products by any type of retailer or manufacturer (in other words, not just restaurants), from clamshell containers to packing peanuts. Fast food chains are in on it, too: Last February, Dunkin' pledged to phase out its signature Styrofoam cups by 2020. But an entire state hasn't taken the plunge on outlawing the material just yet. It looks like Maryland might be the first.
Last week, the state House of Delegates passed a bill that would ban polystyrene (the non-trademarked name for Styrofoam) cups and containers, CNBC reports, and if Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signs the bill into law, offenders could be fined $250. (Exceptions would be made for products packaged out of state.) Opponents of polystyrene point to the fact that these foam plastics are very difficult to recycle, and it’s even been suggested that Styrofoam contains carcinogens and can lead to cancer.
A state-wide polystyrene ban would force restaurants to find eco-friendly packaging alternatives—a task many establishments have avoided (despite consumers' demand for greener dining spots) due to cost restrictions. There are other hurdles besides money, though. While chains like Sweetgreen have pioneered the use of compostable takeout containers, some of those containers require industrial composting that uses ultra-high temperatures to break the material down (meaning, you can't just throw that takeout box in your at-home compost heap). "Curbside composting is not there yet," Green Restaurant Association CEO Michael Oshman told CNBC. "That compostable product ends up in the garbage."