First Statewide Ban on Styrofoam Begins in 2021

Facility managers and staff working in commercial kitchens, schools, and other facilities in the state of Maine that provide food services have until January 1, 2021 to find replacements for polystyrene food and beverage containers.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a new law that prohibits the sale or distribution of disposable containers made of polystyrene, also known as the brand name of Styrofoam. The law applies to takeout containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, cups, sleeves, and stirrers. Once the ban goes into effect, violations will be subject to a fine up to US$100.

There are three exemptions for food establishments, including emergency use to preserve public health and safety, containers that customers bring into establishments, and containers that businesses purchase prepackaged at wholesale.

Plastic foam food containers are among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the United States. More than 256 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in Maine, according to the National Resources Council of Maine.

Although polystyrene cannot be recycled in Maine, other states have facilities that will take the material. CMM offers the following advice for facilities looking to improve their recycling practices:

Know which materials recycling facilities in your area handle so you are not saving items they cannot recycle or throwing away items that are recyclable.
Make recycling easy for facility occupants by placing recycling containers in convenient locations and posting lists of recyclable items near the containers.
Conduct a waste audit to identify the most common items in your facility’s waste stream, such as paper hand towels, food waste, or packaging supplies, and determine which can be recycled.
Track and report recycling accomplishments, to encourage more people to participate and make recycling a part of the company culture.