Rockville is Latest To Ban Polystyrene Containers

An estimated 400 restaurants and businesses must use recyclable containers

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Rockville has become the latest city to ban restaurants and businesses from using the thermoplastic polystyrene, commonly found in food containers and packing peanut cushioning.

The mayor and City Council voted unanimously to adopt the ban more than a year ago and the new rules took effect New Year’s Day “to give time to both do outreach to affected businesses and also for any inventory of polystyrene materials to be used up,” Rockville Chief of Environmental Management Mark Charles said during the city’s 2017 discussion on the ban.

Gaithersburg and Takoma Park have adopted similar prohibitions, Charles said, and Montgomery County adopted restrictions in 2015.

Rockville also has approved a ban on the use of plastic straws that will take effect July 1. Cities and counties across the country have been imposing similar restrictions, forcing the use of paper straws or washable, reusable straws.

The polystyrene ban is expected to affect 400 restaurants, food service establishments and shipping businesses, according to a Rockville staff report.

There was a smooth transition at the county when the legislation went in place and the City Council expects the same in Rockville, Councilmember Beryl Feinberg said.

“The reactions that we have had in the county, including our own cafeterias because it applies to cafeterias throughout the county, is a willingness and a readiness and really not any problem because of the way the law was constructed,” Feinberg said.

Restaurant industry representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Polystyrene is often used for plates, clamshell containers, hot and cold beverage cups, meat and vegetable trays, and egg cartons, the staff report said. The petroleum-derived material never fully degrades and its manufacturing process generates the fifth-largest amount of hazardous waste in the United States.

Similar to the county legislation, the ban requires an alternative to polystyrene that is either compostable or recyclable. The Rockville staff emphasizes the use of recyclable material, and suitable substitutes include plastic or cardboard, Charles said.

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