I want to notify you about a proposal that could have a devastating impact on Maine’s iconic lobster industry. It’s a classic example of a well-intentioned effort going awry and hurting people it’s supposed to help. I’m talking about how municipalities like New York City have recently moved to ban polystyrene foam, including Styrofoam, products from being used. There have been attempts to get Maine’s legislature to implement a statewide ban as well, but those efforts have failed, mostly due to the extreme impact a ban would have on restaurants and the lobster industry.

We should make sure that polystyrene bans don’t happen in our state. It’s important to remember that because environmental protection is an intensely emotional issue, policies are occasionally passed without considering all the consequences, and polystyrene bans are perfect examples.

Slowing down litter from these products is reasonable goal, but, as I’ve heard from many businesses in Maine, it would create massive problems if a ban was carried out. There are better solutions than a ban out there.

Let’s look at what would happen in Maine if we were to implement a ban.

It’s clear that banning these products, which are used to transport lobsters during shipping and are used as takeout containers at restaurants, would hit small and large businesses all over Maine right where it hurts. Our restaurants would be forced to switch to using more expensive products, which would cut into the already razor-thin profit margins of people working hard to make a living in a largely seasonal economy. It would be very sad to see small businesses closing because of a misguided policy change handed down from Augusta.

And perhaps the most damaging consequence of a polystyrene ban would be the demise of Maine’s lobster industry. Lobsters are only shipped in polystyrene containers. There simply is no alternative material or container. It’s polystyrene or nothing. Full stop.

Imagine the impact on Maine’s coastal areas that a ban would have. We have great seafood restaurants, and a strong lobster industry — both of which support our great communities on the water.

There may be some that would say that getting rid of the lobster industry and putting restaurants in jeopardy would be worthwhile if a polystyrene ban can be implemented. There are a few that would say that getting rid of the lobster industry and putting restaurants in jeopardy would be worthwhile if a polystyrene ban can be implemented. Most would disagree, and I have good news for those who would be fine with wrecking our iconic lobster industry: there’s an excellent alternative to a ban!

Polystyrene is actually recyclable. Maine communities can use expanded recycling programs to take care of polystyrene waste without the negative impact to our economy that a ban would have. Municipalities like San Diego have implemented these recycling programs and have argued that spending a small fraction of their budget to recycle polystyrene is worth the massive financial hit that the area would take if a ban is implemented.

We can protect our environment and preserve our state’s iconic industry, or we can take the smart approach to cutting down on litter while we continue to support small businesses and one of the industries that makes Maine such a great place to live.

Let’s focus on positive, proven solutions like expanding recycling rather than on banning polystyrene and hitting our lobster and tourism industries with massive problems of our own making.

Ben Gilman is senior government relations specialist for the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. He has served as

Director of Economic Development for

Senator Olympia Snowe.

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