On Tuesday, April 16, a bill aimed at banning polystyrene containers — commonly referred to with the brand name Styrofoam — from stores and restaurants got one step closer to becoming a statewide law.

The Maine Senate approved the legislation and advanced the bill. It now faces a series of procedural votes and then will head to Gov. Janet Mills for review. Previously, on April 4, the bill passed in the House by an 87-51 party-line vote.

Local Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, is the sponsor of LD 289, "An Act To Prohibit the Use of Certain Disposable Food Service Containers."

Zeigler said by phone this week, "Polystyrene just can't be recycled. It negatively affects our fisheries an also reduces the size of our shellfish."

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the bill would prohibit statewide the sale or distribution of disposable food service containers composed in whole, or in part, of polystyrene foam.

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to implement these statutory provisions.

Zeigler said there was some initial push-back and compromises were reached on a couple of fronts.

The Portland Press Herald reported the several exceptions for continued polystyrene use.

Hospitals and Meals-on-Wheels providers will still be allowed to use polystyrene, as will lobster dealers and other Maine processors that ship seafood in foam coolers and ice chests. The bill also will not require grocery stores to repackage items that arrive at the store pre-packaged in polystyrene.

Opponents of the bill suggested a statewide ban could impose additional burdens on small businesses without addressing the underlying throw-away culture.

Organizations such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association and the Maine Tourism Association also oppose the bill.

Sarah Lakeman of Natural Resources Council of Maine said in her testimony supporting LD 289, "This material’s lightweight nature and bead-like structure allow it to be carried easily by the wind and currents, where it breaks up into even tinier bits of plastic … we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics — starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam."

If enacted, the bill would make Maine among the first states nationwide to prohibit single-use food and drink containers made from polystyrene. Zeigler said he anticipates this to become a "nationwide initiative" with other states following Maine's lead.

More than a half-dozen communities in Maine, including Belfast, Camden and Rockland, already have local ordinances banning polystyrene food and beverage containers as well as plastic bags.