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07 • 12 • 2021

Support Sustainable Product Packaging in Maine!

The Maine Chapter worked 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

July 12, 2021:

Governor Janet Mills signed LD1541 into law on July 12, 2021, making Maine the first U.S. state to pass an extended producer responsibility for packaging law into effect!

The bill's floor amendments:

  • exempted certain small and local food producers who sell perishable food in Maine;
  • removed the requirement of retailers to check to see if they are selling compliant brands or not;
  • removed the explicit reference to disposal cost reimbursement, which will be handled instead in rulemaking;
  • requires major substantive rulemaking for any exemptions related to federally regulated packaging; and,
  • shifts the deadline for DEP to start rulemaking to 2023

Check out NRCM's LD1541 factsheet here to learn more about the law.

Send your state house and senate electeds who voted favorably on LD1541 a big THANK YOU!

We extend a giant THANK YOU to all our supporters who submitted testimony and helped along the way, as well as to NRCM for their lead role on this BIG lift and all the other allies who helped bring about this precedent-setting victory! 

July 2, 2021:

Today, both chambers passed LD1541 as amended! The bill is now headed to Governor Mills for her consideration. 

—>YOU CAN HELP by contacting the Governor to ask her to sign LD1541 into law when it reaches her desk: governor@maine.gov

Give us a shout for few suggested talking points: mgates@surfrider.org.

June 17, 2021:

The Senate passed LD1541 today, and the bill is headed to the Appropriations Committee! See how YOUR Senator voted and send an email of THANKS or CONCERN! 

The House passed LD1541 as amended on 6-16-21 on a steep partisan divide, with 7 Republicans absent and only one Republican voting in support as amended, for a final roll call of 86 yes, 57 no, 8 absent.

Maine is hinging on the balance of becoming the first state in the US to pass an EPR for packaging bill into law! 

—>YOU CAN HELP by contacting the Governor to ask her to sign LD1541 into law if it reaches her desk: governor@maine.gov

Give us a shout for few suggested talking points: mgates@surfrider.org.

The bill has one final vote in the Senate after it (hopefully) passes out of the Appropriations Committee. Stay tuned!

June 14, 2021:

LD1541 was voted out of Committee today with a majority report that it should pass as amended! The bill is expected to hit the floor for debate and votes THIS WEEK! :D

—>YOU CAN HELP by contacting your State House and Senate elected to ask them to SUPPORT LD1541 when it comes up for a vote!

Find contact information here or give us a shout with your full address and we can send the contact information back to you with a few suggested talking points: mgates@surfrider.org.

The BAD producer-backed EPR for packaging bill, LD1471, was reported out of Committee on June 14, 2021, with a majority report that it should not pass. The bill will now move to the floor with that recommendation from the Committee.

May 10, 2021:

The EPR bill we are working with allies to support was printed and assigned LD1541 and came to public hearing before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Zoom on Wednesday, May 10, 2021.

To view the archived video of the hearing, check out the YouTube Channel here. View written testimony submitted at this link (please note that there is a backlog of written testimony to be uploaded across the Maine State Legislature's Committees; it can be reasonably anticipated that all testimony submitted will be viewable online within 7 business days of the public hearing).

The next step is for the Committee to host a work session to deliberate all testimony received for and against LD1541 and the industry-backed bill that we opposed, LD1471.

To engage directly, please give a shout!

April 20, 2021:

To submit written testimony or sign up to speak on May 10, fill out the form online here.

Give us a shout if you'd like help (filling out the testimony form, developing talking points, learning how to use Zoom to testify, or anything!): maine@surfrider.org!

Keep in mind that last session's EPR bill saw nearly 200 people turn out to testify live; this hearing could go all day, and it's likely that the chairs will need to limit comments to 3 minutes each.

April 12, 2021:

An industry-backed EPR bill, LD1471, has been docketed and referred to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The Committee will hold a joint hearing on this bill alongside our environmental EPR bill, LD1541, and then potentially engage in a work session to reconcile the drafts based upon public testimony. 

December 2020:

As a special session was not able to be agreed upon and the 130th Maine State Legislature was convened on December 2, 2020, the EPR for packaging bill, LD2104, died, along with hundreds of other bills that were left on the table in COVID.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) took the lead to create a new EPR for packaging bill for the 130th Legislature to consider. NRCM solicited feedback from stakeholders, including us, before submitting the bill to the Revisor's Office for official introduction. 

All allies agreed that the sweeping exemptions that came out of the Committee last session needed to go. 

Our input beyond that focused on:

  • Tightening allowances for the phase-out of incineration and getting rid of the greenwashing language “waste to energy” to call the practice of burning trash what it is: incineration;
  • Expounding upon the primary goal of plastic pollution source reduction by keeping this goal in focus throughout the bill; and, importantly,
  • Codifying process to mandate considerations for environmental justice and equity of access to financial disbursements to municipalities, assistance to municipalities wishing to participate in the program, and recycling, trash-free municipalities, and a healthy environment for ALL. 

We will link to the bill here and provide analysis when the new legislation is assigned a legislative document number (LD) and made public.

In the meantime, please email our Northeast Regional Manager, Melissa Gates, and volunteers leading the Surfrider Maine Chapter to get involved in this campaign to reduce plastic pollution + wasteful packaging, reform our recycling system, and put polluters on the check to pay for their own messes: maine@surfrider.org

November 2020:

A possible special session seems highly unlikely as we approach the seating of a new state legislature in early December. In the highly unlikely event that such a session occurs, the appetite for calling LD2104 is light. 

But all is not lost, and there are many opportunities in starting fresh!

We are working with allies to help inform the development of a new bill building off from the last; we are calling for the new bill to highlight environmental justice concerns and acknowledge that while fixing recycling is important, source reduction is the real key for plastic pollution mitigation.

Indeed, we must advance concurrent mitigation strategies to attain the future we want to see of a plastic-free ocean.

Get onboard: maine@surfrider.org

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