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Mayor and Council Vote to Ban Use of Polystyrene

The Mayor and Council voted unanimously on a proposed ban in the City of Rockville on the use of polystyrene in food plates, trays, containers or in loose fill for shipping packages.

The ban, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, potentially affects about 400 restaurants and food service establishments and several shipping businesses in the city. It is an extension of a ban that took effect in Montgomery County in 2016.

Polystyrene is a petroleum-derived plastic that can be molded into various shapes and forms. It is often mistakenly called “Styrofoam,” which is a name, trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company, for certain types of building materials and pipe insulation.

Polystyrene has historically been used for plates, clamshell containers, hot and cold beverage cups, meat and vegetable trays, and egg cartons. Its manufacturing process generates the fifth-largest amount of hazardous wastes in the United States.

Although polystyrene breaks down into small pellets, it never fully degrades. Because it is lightweight, it can be easily carried on the wind or float long distances in rivers and streams. It is the second-most common type of beach litter, making up as much as one-fifth of the stormwater debris recovered from waterways through stream clean ups.

The City of Rockville collects used polystyrene as part of its weekly refuse collection and takes it, along with other household refuse, for disposal in the county’s waste-to-energy incinerator.

The ordinance banning polystyrene was introduced Nov. 6. For a staff report and the Mayor and Council’s discussion of the proposal, find video of the Nov. 6 and Dec. 11 meetings at

For more information, call Mark Charles, the city’s chief of environmental management, at 240-314-8871.

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