Maryland Green Purchasing

Food Service Supplies

The Green Purchasing Committee has issued guidelines to guide food service product procurement to mitigate the harmful effects of single-use products:

​Click here for Food Service Specification

*The State of Maryland has also issued a specification for shell eggs, outlining current laws and requirements regarding their storage, use and distribution.

To reduce the environmental and public health impacts of single-use products, state agencies are encouraged to use products that are: 

Reusable: For food service locations where the food is consumed on the premises, washing and reusing dishes, utensils and cloth napkins are often less expensive than their single-use counterparts.

Biodegradable: If single-use products are unavoidable, choose sustainably sourced (i.e. sustainably managed forests), recycled paper or other plant-based material inputs.


The disposable nature of single-use food ware products is wasteful of the raw materials used to make them and can be polluting if not properly disposed or recycled. Despite the prevalent use of single-use plastic and conventional paper products, there are numerous attainable and effective alternatives that already exist (from re-usable products to sustainably sourced and compostable materials).

Adverse Impacts from: 

  • Crude oil (from which plastics are derived) mining and fracking are energy and resource-intensive as well as heavily polluting. 
  • Pre-production plastic in the form of small pellets escape into natural systems and the watershed at every stage of their lifecycle, polluting the food chain and adversely affecting people, the soil, and the ocean.  
  • Only a small amount of plastics find their way into a recycling bin or the landfill at the end of their life. In 2010 alone, an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste was released into the ocean by 192 coastal countries
  • Microplastics adversely impact the health of wildlife, especially in the case of sea-life that mistake smaller plastic pieces for food. The plastics can cause inflammation and organ blockages.  
  • BPA, an additive in plastic, is a known hormone disruptor; additionally, the rate of leaching can increase when heating food in plastic.

For more information on plastic impacts in Maryland, please click here for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Fact Sheet.

Single-Use Paper Products: 
Paper manufacturing is resource intensive, polluting and tied to deforestation.

Despite the ubiquitous use of disposable food service ware, these products are rarely recycled or recyclable:


Plastics overly contaminated with food or drink are not recycled or are more expensive to recycle. If there is too much contamination in a load of recyclables, the entire load might be sent to the landfill. 

Paper products contaminated with oil, e.g., a grease-soaked pizza box, are not recyclable. The oil cannot be separated from the paper fibers, reducing the value of the recycled material.


Plastic utensils (usually made from plastic #6) are not cost-effective to recycle. 
Plastic straws disrupt machinery and delay recycling processes.

#3-#7 Plastics: China has stopped accepting 40 types of imported waste, including recyclable materials such as plastics to prevent local environmental pollution. For the U.S., this means that many recycling collection sites have stopped accepting plastics #3-#7 because they are too expensive to recycle. 

Mixed Materials: It is costly to separate the materials. e.g., plastic lining on a paper cup.

Expanded polystyrene foam food service ware is not recyclable and when incinerated, produces styrene gas, a neurotoxin. To mitigate environmental and health impacts of these products, many cities and states have banned these products. Maryland’s expanded poly​​styrene ban​​ prohibits the use of expanded polystyrene food packaging beginning July 1, 2020.

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