Support Prince George's County Action on Toxics and Trash

Volunteers scooping up plastic containers at our Earth Day Cleanup
Bladensburg Waterfront Park, MD.

Prince George's County is considering two important measures that would help reduce pollutants in the Anacostia River Watershed. One bill, CB-5, would ban those pesky plastic foam (made of expanded polystyrene and often incorrectly referred to as Styrofoam) containers that we see all too often at cleanup events like the one shown in the photo above. Another bill, CB-6, would ban something not so easily cleaned up or seen as the trash in our streams and neighborhoods: coal tar pavement sealants. These sealants are black liquids applied to asphalt surfaces such as parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds and have been found to cause health problems and environmental damage. Check out this USGS factsheet for more details about coal tar sealants.

Here are the top reasons we support banning these products:

(And read on to find out how you can help)

Plastic foam products are ...

  • one of the most persistent forms of trash in our waterways. 
    From a trash trap we maintain on a tributary of the Anacostia River, roughly 20% of the trash we collect is plastic foam. That’s just the stuff that’s mostly intact; plastic foam easily breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces too difficult to clean up where it remains in the environment for thousands of years.
  • unsafe for humans and wildlife.
    Studies conducted by federal officials show that styrene is a potential human carcinogen and it can leach into foods and beverages that are heated, fatty, or acidic. It is also harmful to wildlife when ingested (mistaken for food).
  • not sustainable options.
    Often contaminated with food and beverages, plastic foam containers are too dirty to be recycled and many jurisdictions do not accept them in their recycling programs. Businesses throughout the country are making the switch from plastic foam to reusable, recyclable, and compostable products (some of which are comparable in cost).

Coal tar sealants ...

  • contain high concentrations of compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), many of which are toxic to aquatic life and carcinogenic to humans.
  • increase the estimated lifetime cancer risk by 38 times for people who live near pavement sealed with coal tar.
  • release PAHs into the environment via water runoff, wind, and other wear and tear. One factor making it unsafe to eat fish from the Anacostia River are high levels of PAHs.

Ways you can help:

Prince George’s County Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee will hear these bills on Thursday, March 26. Call or email the following committee members to let them know you support CB-5 and CB-6 (and then the full council this spring as we anticipate passage by the committee).

Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee Members

Mary A. Lehman, Chair, District 1 – 301-952-3887, [email protected] 
(thank her for sponsoring both bills)

Todd M. Turner, Vice-Chair, District 4 – 301-952-3094, [email protected]

Deni Taveras, District 2 – 301-952-4436, [email protected] 
(thank her for sponsoring CB-6)

Dannielle M. Glaros, District 3 – 301-952-3060, [email protected] 
(thank her for sponsoring CB-5)

Mel Franklin (Council Chair), District 9 – 301-952-3820, [email protected]

Let's get this pollution out of our neighborhoods, streets, and waterways! Montgomery County and the District of Columbia passed similar laws. Join us and others such as Trash Free Maryland, Sierra Club - Prince George's Group, Clean Water Action - Maryland, and Alice Ferguson Foundation to help complete the trifecta for the watershed!

Please check out our factsheet for more information and share it with your Prince George's County friends and neighbors! See who else is banning plastic foam and coal tar sealants across the U.S.




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