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11 • 04 • 2019

Support Recycling Reform in Maine!

The Maine Chapter is working with our Northeast Regional Manager and advocates for plastic pollution source reduction and recycling reform around the state to support an extended producer responsibility for packaging and plastics bill.

UPDATES

August 2020:

A possible special session is still under discussion but appetite for calling LD2104 if such a session occurs is light. 

As such, We anticipate that a new bill will need to be introduced in the next legislative session. We are working with environmental allies to craft an aspirational draft that highlights environmental justice concerns and acknowledges that source reduction is the key solutions for plastic pollution, under which EPR for packaging must follow. 

2020 Session:

The extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging bill was docketed on 2-11-20 as LD2104, An Act to Increase Support and Recycling of Packaging.

The public hearing was held before the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) for Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 10AM in room 216 of the Cross Building, 111 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine. You can hear the many hours of testimony here and read through the more than 100 documents of testimony presented in hearing here.

The ENR Committee then scheduled a work session for March 5 at 1pm to deliberate testimony, including a new amendment to the procedures presented in hearing today by the Department of Environmental Protection. A summary document was produced for that work session, as was a proposed amendment by Committee Senate Chair Carson.

After additional work sessions on March 11 and 12, the Committee voted in favor of passing the bill on a margin of 6 - 3, issuing a divided report with the majority recommending the bill for passage as amended and the minority recommending the measure be held for further study.

There are issues with the amended bill that we will be working with allies to try to correct. The bill now exempts packaging associated with drugs, child-resistant packaging, and medical devices, which includes an alarming array of products that would not be covered by EPR for packaging laws should this bill pass as amended.

Exemptions Include:

  • Any product with a 'Drug Facts' label (think: aspirin, mouthwash, toothpaste, sunscreen…)
  • Cleaners, fuels, body care products and dietary supplements that require child resistant packaging
  • Any product intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (think: condoms, dental floss, face masks, toothbrushes…)

In addition to the sweeping exemptions noted above, there are also outstanding issues involving Maine’s craft breweries. Many testified against this bill in the public hearing, asserting that such a law would be a double tax as they are already hit hard by our bottle bill and working to comply with best practices for bottling, and so should not need also to pay for the packaging to hold their glass or cans together. As the amendment language stands, all but the four largest Maine breweries would be exempt from paying for their non-beverage container packaging.

Maine's bottle bill is arguably our best recycling law. Our infrastructure is built around the redemption system, and we do not support wrapping the bottle bill into the EPR bill at this time. We're hoping to flesh out creative ways to incorporate non-beverage container packaging into the EPR bill in a way that acknowledges the recycling and waste issues with packaging and also supports our breweries.

NEXT STEPS:

Initially, the Maine Legislature was set to adjourn on April 15, 2020 (short sessions adjourn on the 3rd Wednesday of April in every even numbered year). However, with the COVID-19 pandemic looming overhead with strong recommendations for physical distancing, it was announced that the Legislature would adjourn sine die on March 17, with the hope of reconvening at some later point prior to the December session, when a new Legislature will be sworn in pursuant to November elections.

Should the Legislature not be able to reconvene before then, LD2104 will die and need to be reintroduced under a new bill number in December 2020.

This means that while LD2104 was reported out of committee with the majority recommending the bill for passage as amended, the House and Senate are no longer in session to bring the bill forward for votes.  

This also means that YOU CAN STILL HELP BUILD SUPPORT FOR EPR FOR PACKAGING IN MAINE!

During this uncertain time while we all do our part to help flatten the curve of pandemic spread by practicing physical distancing and following the public health rules du jour, we can each help support the idea for EPR for packaging by:

1. Talking to our friends, family and neighbors about why EPR for packaging is important! Consider sharing the link to this campaign write up and this awesome video from Story of Stuff Project by email and on your website and social media pages to help spread the word!

2. Learning + sharing about the environmental justice implications for plastics and how this relates to EPR for packaging. Did you know that toxic facilities like petrochemical plants and incinerators emit cancer causing contaminants into the air, water, food, and bodies of local communities where they are sited, and that race is the number one indicator for the placement of these toxic facilities in the U.S.? True story, and change starts here and now with YOU. Dependence upon plastic packaging disproportionately impacts communities of color and we can put a stop to it. Purchase wisely to limit plastic and wasteful packaging, choose reusable, and get involved in plastic source reduction campaigns with us to help (if you're here reading this, AWESOME! Good start, reach out!).

3. Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, speaking to why source reduction and EPR for packaging are so important, urging Mainers to contact their House and Senate electeds with support for the idea of an EPR for packaging law in Maine. 

4. Make sure you've communicated with your State House Representative and State Senator to let them know you support EPR for packaging, but have major concerns for the sweeping amendments made in Committee to exempt way too many types of products. Let them know that if they are re-elected this November that you expect they will work hard to support good environmental policy for EPR for packaging. Find contact info here or email us for help.

For tips or talking points, please give a shout!

Thanks for taking action on this paradigm shifting legislation that coupled with source reduction strategies like our state bag ban that is slated to take effect in January 2021, will help curb plastic pollution! 

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One more way to Help!

Most of us know that we need to be reducing and reusing—and most importantly, refusing single-use plastics. But do you know what happens to the stuff you toss in the trash or recycle bin?

Maybe you live in a town where recycling is significantly limited?

Do you have a hard time finding things to buy at your local store that are the right # plastic to be recycled locally?

We invite you to help bring awareness to Maine's plastics and recycling problems by sharing your stories.

To participate just:
1. Snap a pic or video to help tell YOUR story on your shopping, recycling or plastics experiences (in 3 minutes or less);
2. In the comments or audio, note where in Maine you live;
3. Post your video (or pic!) to your IG or Facebook page; and,
4. Be sure to tag us at @SurfriderMaine and use the hashtag #Epr4Maine to help spread the word that we are on a pathway toward solutions here in Maine!

The Maine legislature is currently considering an Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging bill that would reform recycling in our state.

Concurrent with source reduction strategies that help us move away from dependence on fossil fuels that are exacerbating climate change, such as our statewide plastic bag ban (taking effect January 2021!), EPR is a great opportunity for our State to reduce packaging and reform recycling.

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HISTORIC ACCOUNT

Maine passed a law 30 years ago establishing a 50% recycling goal. Since then, the state recycling rate has remained stagnant at a mere 40%. Our fragmented US recycling infrastructure was exposed when other nations began refusing our tainted bails. Since then, recycling rates across the nation are falling and many local recovery centers have closed their doors.

We know that recycling is A key to our plastic pollution crisis but it is not THE key. We cannot recycle, educate or repackage our way out of this problem. To stop plastic pollution, we must stop making plastic. 

That said, recycling is an important part of the waste stream hierarchy! Working to reduce the amount of plastic made in the first place while at the same time improving packaging design, recyclability, and processes (including processing and distribution) will help us achieve goals of less waste and less plastic pollution. 

Surfrider does not believe that recycling programs should be paid for solely by taxpayers and municipalities who have no say in what materials they are stuck managing. Instead, manufacturers that put products on our shelves should be required to package them in sustainable ways.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) for plastic and packaging gets us an important step closer to this goal. Rather than putting consumers on the hook for proper disposal of goods they buy packaged on store shelves—many of which are either not recyclable or cannot be locally recycled or reclaimed and so go straight to the landfill or incinerator to create more toxins and stress on our planet—producers are instead held accountable for packaging.

This incentivizes packaging reform at the source of manufacture, requiring companies to package goods in a responsible manner that both reduces waste by creative design before it is generated (source reduction) and also provides a clear pathway for proper recovery or disposal of materials when the consumer is done with the product.

Luckily, LD1431 passed in the 2019 legislative session requiring the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to look at EPR as a way to help reform Maine's recycling system. On December 16, 2019, the DEP was to release its recommendations, including a draft bill. An extension was granted, and when the DEP addressed the ENR Committee on this issue on January 8, at 1pm - opening day of the Second Regular Session in 2020 - the draft became public.

The ENR committee voted unanimously to send the draft bill to be written and officially introduced as an LD, which when complete will bring the measure to public hearing.

As there was substantial work to be done by the DEP and other stakeholders to complete the bill, drafting took a little more time than originally anticipated. However, both the House and Senate chairs of the ENR Committee affirmed that this is likely the most important bill that will come before them this session and they are eager to move it forward through the public process. We'll keep this page updated with ways to engage. Please email for any additional information

Coupled with source reduction strategies, EPR will help Maine tackle plastic pollution by holding polluters accountable for the packaging waste they generate, which will incentivize them to package goods in less wasteful and costly ways. #Winning! :D

We hope you will sign this petition from our friends at the Natural Resources Council of Maine to show your support and join or renew your Surfrider membership to help support this important work.

NOTE: 

Legislative meetings on bills before the ENR Committee are held in Room 216, Cross State Office Building, 111 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine

Plastic Pollution