PORTLAND — A City Council subcommittee this week voted to send to the full council a proposed ordinance that would ban sales of plastic foam, a petroleum-based product that cannot be recycled.

The proposal would prohibit the use of polystyrene containers by food vendors and food retailers and at city-sponsored and city-contracted events starting July 1, 2015.

The Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee voted 2-1 Wednesday to send the proposed ordinance to the City Council. City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said it could appear on the agenda for the council’s August meeting, but the agenda has not yet been set.

Nonrecyclable plastic and polystyrene foam have long been a concern for environmentalists, who say foam is one of the most common forms of litter and takes hundreds of years to break down.

Opponents of the ban, including Gov. Paul LePage, in June sent a letter to the City Council saying the proposal is an example of “nanny-state” overregulation. They say the ban would add extra costs to local businesses.

Polystyrene foam is banned in more than 40 communities, mostly in California.

Plastic foam food packaging has been banned in Freeport since 1990. Fines for selling foam range from $250 to $500.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 billion plastic foam cups a year, and each one would take more than 500 years to break down.

Under the proposed ordinance, fines for violations would range from a maximum $250 for the first offense within a one-year period to a maximum of $500 for each subsequent offense in a one-year period.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com