Maine law transfers recycling costs to packaging producers
YORK, Maine – Maine became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring companies that create consumer packaging to pay the costs of recycling.
Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed the bill, LD 1541, on Tuesday, July 13.
The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth), establishes an “extended producer responsibility” program that will charge large packaging producers for the collection and recycling of cardboard boxes, plastic containers and other packaging materials, as well as for the disposal of non-recyclable packaging.
“I am proud that once again Maine is a national leader in common sense environmental protection,” Grohoski said in a statement. “This new law guarantees every community in Maine that helps with recycling and reducing the tax burden on property is on its way.”
Supporters of the proposal said the payments would be used to cover operational costs, pay department fees, and fund education and infrastructure projects aimed at reducing future packaging waste.
Mark Graziano of the York Recycling Committee said the new measure should lower property taxes in York, which have skyrocketed in recent years, and make recycling easier for consumers.
Graziano said he first heard about the policy in 2019 from the Natural Resource Council, but nearly 40 countries have similar legislation, some for 30 years. The committee has supported this bill since its inception, Graziano said.
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging has been put into practice across Europe and in several Canadian provinces, including neighboring Quebec to Maine. Many states in the US already have EPR programs for hard-to-dispose of goods, such as batteries, mattresses, and medications.
Maine and other states pursuing similar legislation could step up efforts to pass the federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which has sat in Congress since before the pandemic, Graziano said.
Recycling programs suffered from China’s 2018 decision to block American materials. Many communities in Maine have also had to deal with the abrupt closure of a recycling plant.
Other cities in Maine that have had to forgo recycling services due to high costs, Graziano said, will have a greater incentive to reinstate recycling initiatives.
The new packaging legislation met opposition from some business groups – including the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association – who feared it would affect the supply chain and increase the cost of products. grocery.
Environmentalists applauded the movement. Maine Environment Director Anya Fetcher said Maine “has chosen to stop this rising tide of plastic pollution by putting the onus on dealing with this crisis where it belongs.”
Graziano said the law includes exemptions for small businesses and nonprofits, and other cities with similar laws, such as Quebec, have not seen price increases.
Maine has led the way in environmental legislation since the passage of one of the first bottle laws in the 1970s. Almost 20 years ago, the state passed the first laws requiring manufacturers to pay for recycling electronic devices, including computers and televisions. In 2019, the Maine legislature banned foam food containers, which will come into effect soon.
This report includes documents from the Associated Press.