by Laura Cattell Noll, Assistant Program Manager
In the last decade, communities throughout the Potomac River Watershed have taken substantive action to prevent litter, clean up communities and protect the water we drink. Local jurisdictions in the Washington DC region have been national leaders in disposable bag laws, polystyrene foam bans and innovative social marketing campaigns.
The Maryland General Assembly is looking at the successes of these local jurisdictions and considering a state-wide ban on polystyrene. Commonly known as Styrofoam, polystyrene use poses risks to human health and threatens our drinking water.
A volunteer carries a large block of Styrofoam found on the shore of the Potomac River during a cleanup.
When hot food or beverages are placed in polystyrene food containers, they can leach toxic chemicals directly into our food. Scientists have found that most Americans have residues of these chemicals in their bodies. Because it is lightweight and floats, discarded polystyrene containers are often carried by runoff to storm drains and eventually end up in local waterways. Over time, the polystyrene breaks into small pieces, but never decomposes. These small pieces absorb chemicals from the water and are readily ingested by fish.
For the last 29 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation has organized the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup in collaboration with hundreds of partners throughout the region. Since its inception, more that 150,000 volunteers have removed more than 7 million pounds of trash. Our volunteers have consistently found that polystyrene food containers represent a significant portion of the trash in our communities and waterways.
Together we can make polystyrene a thing of the past! What will you do to help?
- Call your legislator and tell them you support Senate Bill 186 and House Bill 229.
- Pledge to go foam free by bringing your own reusable coffee mug.
- Sign-up to volunteer for clean land, safe water and healthy communities.