Despite being a small state, Maryland is taking big steps to help the planet.

Earlier this week, the state House of Delegates approved a bill which would make Maryland the first U.S. state to ban polystyrene containers (the non-trademarked name for “styrofoam”).

The bill, HB109, now awaits the governor’s signature.

Though several American cities and restaurant chains have committed to phasing out the harmful packaging products over the course of the last few years, there has not yet been a state government willing to take the plunge.

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“It may feel like a small step to take this one form of really insidious plastic styrofoam and start with that just here in the state of Maryland, but it is a big step because [we] will be the first state to ban a major form of plastic in America,” said state Delegate Brooke Lierman.

The styrofoam containers which we use to hold our coffee and carry our leftovers are particularly toxic for the planet because of how easily they break apart. It is rarely recycled (it is collected with plastics in some parts of the U.S. and UK), but it has also been linked to cancer risks.

“Polystyrene foam food and beverage containers have been a first-class environmental nuisance … Their brittle composition has meant that coffee cups and clamshells often break into tiny pieces, which litter streets, parks and beaches,” wrote the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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The legislation will allow for a one-year grace period during which cafes, schools, supermarkets, and businesses can phase out their stock and switch to cleaner alternatives before the ban goes into effect on July 1st, 2020. Consumers who bring containers that were purchased out of state will be exempt from the ban.

“Maryland may be a small state, but we have the chance with this legislation to LEAD the country on eliminating this horrible form of single-use plastic from our state,” Lierman wrote on Facebook. “We have a duty to future generations to clean up the mess that has been made – this bill is an important step!”

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