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Maine becomes first state to ban sale of Styrofoam

Maine becomes first state to ban sale of Styrofoam
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Maine is the first state in the nation to ban Styrofoam food containers.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed the bill on Tuesday night banning across-the-board all businesses including coffee shops and restaurants from processing, preparing, selling or offering food items in the single-use Styrofoam containers.

Anyone who violates the law could face up to $100 in fines. The law will take effect on January 1, 2021.

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"Polystyrene cannot be recycled like a lot of other products, so while that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not," Mills said in a statement to CNN affiliate WMTW. "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 substance is made out of expanded polystyrene, one of the most widely-used plastics created with petroleum. Foam is not recyclable and does not naturally break down.

The new legislation also prohibits the use of plastic straws in state facilities. 

Environmentalists cheered Maine's bill as an important step to rid the environment of plastic waste.

“Maine has proven itself 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, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said in a statement.

“With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, 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 forms like plastic foam.”

Mills's signature came the same day she introduced a state bill to establish a climate council.

"Today, we take another step in combating this threat, expanding our clean energy economy, and investing in our future by creating the Maine Climate Council and marshaling experts across the state to take urgent action," the governor said in a statement.

Maryland is teed up to pass a similar ban soon. The state's legislature approved a Styrofoam ban in mid-April and it is awaiting the signature of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has not indicated yet whether he will sign it.

Legislatures in Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey are also considering individual bills that could in some way ban Styrofoam.

With such bills those states would join Washington, D.C., which in 2016 initiated a city-wide ban on the sale of the substance. 

Various other cities and municipalities have taken similar steps to address the environmental impact of single-use plastic products. New York and California have banned single-use plastic bags. The Sunshine State has also banned the sale of plastic straws in restaurants.