Reversing previous opposition, Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced his support for banning stores and restaurants from using the plastic foam containers commonly known as Styrofoam.
A council committee considering the idea heard testimony from the public Tuesday.
The foam is a cheap way to package food but when it’s tossed away it often finds its way into the Inner Harbor where it floats and breaks into ever smaller pieces.
Adam Lindquist, an environmental official at the Waterfront Partnership business group, said the Mr. Trash Wheel system has collected 700,000 of the containers since it went into operation.
“It is time for foam to go,” he said.
The committee did not vote on the measure Tuesday, instead scheduling a work session to consider amendments next week.
Young had opposed previous versions of the bill and had declined to schedule a hearing for the new iteration, which he once called “anti-business.” But on Tuesday he said that after meeting with some school children he was convinced on the need for a ban.
London Blackston, one of those children, addressed the committee. Too short to reach the lectern, the fourth grader at Federal Hill Preparatory School, took a microphone in her hand.
“I think it’s time to put people’s health above corporate profits,” she said. “American history is full of companies that no longer make harmful products.”
Environmental groups offered strong support for the measure as did some restaurant owners. But other business people said banning the foam containers would drive up packaging costs as much as three times.
Melvin Thompson, a spokesman for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said restaurants were already struggling in the city and it would be wrong to put an extra financial burden on them.
“This is a huge cost increase with no measurable benefit,” he said.
Baltimore has a program to recycle the foam containers, but it’s not part of the regular recycling stream.
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this story.
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