Restaurants will no longer be allowed to use styrofoam packaging beginning on October 1, 2020.
Things might look a little different when you get your next takeout order. A Maryland statewide ban takes effect on October 1 requiring grocery stores, restaurants, and any business that delivers food to stop using styrofoam containers. The ban was supposed to go into effect on July 1, 2020, but was pushed back by the Maryland Department of the Environment due to the pandemic. A new law in Howard County also goes into effect on October 1 banning plastic grocery bags and requiring stores to charge five cents per bag.
Businesses have been already devoting more money to the purchase of disposable food containers because of COVID-19, and the new law may make it more difficult to get the stock they need. The ban includes cups, plates, trays, clamshell containers, and basically anything made from expanded polystyrene. Styrofoam can release toxic chemicals, contaminating food and the environment. Businesses that need time to comply with the law can apply for a one-year waiver. Any business that is caught using styrofoam after Oct. 1 can be penalized with a $250 fine.
In Howard County, shoppers will have to contend with a new disposable bag ban that starts on Oct. 1. Grocery stores, retail stores, and restaurants will have to charge customers five cents for every bag used in a transaction. The fee only applies to single-use plastic bags; bags made from paper and other earth-friendly materials aren’t subject to the fee. Currently, customers who use reusable bags must bag their own groceries.
The new fee combined with coronavirus health and safety rules are bound to create some confusion in the next few weeks for shoppers and store managers. Nearby Montgomery County has already had a similar ban in place for several years. A bill was introduced in the 2020 Maryland General Assembly to ban plastic bags statewide, but never made it to the state senate.
Fees from plastic bags in Howard County will go into a disposable plastics reduction fund. The fund will provide reusable bags to people in need and educate the community about the need to reduce the use of plastics and improve water and air quality.