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Ban the Bag, Maine!

06 • 17 • 2019

Ban the Bag, Maine!

The Maine Chapter worked with our Northeast Regional Manager to support the passage of a single-use bag bill in Maine.


On June 17, 2019, Governor Janet T. Mills signed the bag ban into law, making Maine the 3rd U.S. state to enact a statewide bag ban (Hawaii's de facto ban does not count as “statewide” in this calculus as each of their five counties has a bag ban but the state does not in fact have one unified law).

The law:

  • Bans plastic film bags under 4 mils
  • Required a fee of at least 5-cents for all single-use paper and plastic film bags at/over 4 mils
  • Preempts local bag laws upon taking effect 4-22-20*

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine State Legislature voted on March 17, 2020, to delay the implementation of the bag ban to January 15, 2021. In an announcement on 12/22/20, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection announced that the ban will not be enforced until July 1, 2021, due to an alledged disruption in supply chains for preferred products.  

Check out this blog from our friends at Upstream to learn more about the safety of reusables. 

Many thanks to all who helped amend the initial bill to make this a good policy requiring fees on plastic film bags considered “reusable,” and maintaining the fee on paper! While we hoped the mandated fees would be higher than 5¢, this is an excellent start and we'll be monitoring vigilantly to determine if a future amendment to hike the fees is needed to properly incentivize the consumer behavior shift away from single-use bags and toward more sustainable reusable ones!


On May 1, 2019, the amendment we sought to disallow 4 mil plastic film bags for free was made in Committee! The majority report included an amendment to add a 5-cent fee to the 4 mil plastic film bags. Thanks to all who helped achieve this milestone!! 

On May 30, 2019, the Maine House voted 91-52 to pass the bill as amended (see how YOUR rep voted, here). The bill is now on its way to the Senate for a vote, and the Senate Chief Calendar Clerk noted this is likely to happen on Monday, June 3, 2019.

The bill was called to the Senate floor on 6/3/19, but tabled because a few Senators who wanted to vote on this measure were not present. 

On June 4, the Maine Senate voted 24 to 11 in concurrence with the House to adopt the amended bill that adds the fee on 4 mil plastic film bags!!!

Then on June 6, the bill passed the Senate in concurrence with the House to be enacted on a vote of 24 to 9, with 2 excused. This is HUGE, and the bill is now on its way to Governor Janet T. Mills for signing (see how YOUR senator voted, here). 

The Maine Chapter has been working to mitigate pollution from single-use plastics for a long time! Check out our past efforts at the state level, here.

In the 129th Legislature, Representative Holly Stover introduced LD1532 to ban single-use plastic film bags in Maine.

We know the time is ripe for statewide bag legislation in Maine, and Surfrider will work hard to best ensure that a good working model that sets excellent precedent will advance.

We were looking for a bill that bans thin-film plastic bags of all thickness specifications and appropriately incentivizes reusable bags by additionally adding a fee for recycled paper checkout bags at point of sale. We also wanted to ensure that the “thickness loophole” is closed, by requiring a policy mechanism that does not allow so-called “reusable” film plastic bags to be given out for free.

As introduced, LD1532 would require a 5-cent fee on paper bags, which is okay although we would like to see a fee that actually allows retailers to recuperate the full cost of the paper bag—and a fee high enough at 15 or 25 cents to properly incentivize consumers to use reusable bags, instead.

This bill also unfortunately would allow for plastic film bags of 4 mils or more to be considered “reusable” and allowed to be given out for free, which studies, such as this one conducted in Austin, Texas, demonstrate will result in consumers opting for them instead of bringing their own reusable bags. The Austin study also proves that customers use these thicker film plastic bags that are given out for free in a single-use manner, thereby contravening the intents of the legislation.

More unfortunate news on this bill is that the bill would preempt local bag regulations that are stronger than this proposed bill. 

So the short of asks we worked on this bill were:

—>Good: Bans plastic film bags under 4mils 

—>Okay: Adds a 5-cent fee on paper bags; Amend to 15 or 25-cents

—>Bad: Allows thick plastic film bags of 4 mils or more to be given out for free, thereby reducing the net good of the bill by doing nothing to reduce source production of low grade plastics (more plastic is needed to create thicker plastic bags at 4 mils! When those bags are then given out for free, consumers use them in a single-use manner and in much higher numbers than those who will choose reusable bags); Amend to ban all plastic film bags of any thickness specification OR require a mandatory, minimum fee of 10-cents for all 4 mil bags sold at point of sale.

—>Bad: Preempts better, stronger local bag laws; Amend to set the state law as a base standard and then allow municipalities to enact stronger subsections.

—>Bad: No requirement for retailers to document itemized bag sales on receipts, which is an integral component of monitoring and evaluating the success of the bill in meeting the goals of incentivizing reusable bags; Amend to require businesses to itemize sales of carry-out bags on receipts.

The public hearing was held on April 24, 2019 at 10AM, where the Department of Environmental Protection, Retail Association and Grocers testified in support! We testified neither for nor against, as without addressing the 4 mil plastic film bags currently allowed for free, this law would not set good bag policy in Maine. Please be sure to ask your state House and Senate electeds to call for striking the 4mil bags for free by either disallowing any plastic film bags or requiring a fee for them.

Thank you!