Maine people want to recycle, but it has become too costly and too confusing. This is because much of our packaging waste cannot be easily recycled, and Maine’s municipalities are struggling to foot the bill and must raise taxes to support recycling programs. It’s high time to require the corporate producers of packaging waste—like Amazon, Walmart, and Procter and Gamble—to do their fair share and take responsibility for their part in the recycling of packaging. Just like is done all over the world.
LD 1541 is just the bill to bring an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging program to Maine. This policy has the support of dozens of Maine’s municipalities, the environmental community, solid waste professionals, and many of Maine’s responsible business owners. It is modeled on successful programs used throughout the world to increase recycling and is the product of several years of study and stakeholder collaboration. Now is the time to finally let Maine’s municipalities know that help is on the way.
But, as lawmakers prepare to vote on LD 1541, the billionaire multinational corporations that would prefer that Maine taxpayers continue to pay for their packaging waste are ramping up their opposition to the bill by purposefully spreading misleading and false information. Companies like Clorox have funded research being used to create bunk studies using flawed data from the Consumer Brands Association that deter lawmakers from supporting EPR; and multinational plastic packaging manufacturers like Novolex have created phony environmental groups to disguise their shameful agenda to keep making more trash. These groups are also conducting biased polls and purposefully spreading false information.
Here are the facts you need to know about LD 1541 and EPR for Packaging:
FACT: Legitimate studies show there is no correlation between costs of goods and EPR programs; no evidence that it affects consumer prices.
- Resource Recycling Systems analyzed real data on consumer prices across Canada and found no correlation between price and the existence of an EPR policy. In their analysis, they state:
“Given the lack of clear correlation between higher prices and the existence of EPR policy, it is likely that pricing is more influenced by other economic factors, such as energy or labor costs, local taxes, distance from distribution hubs, competition, or other operating expense differences.”
- Product prices are the same in Nova Scotia, which does not have EPR, as they are in Quebec, which does benefit from EPR.
- EPR program costs are extremely low for producers; typically fractions of a penny per container. Total costs are between 0 and 1% of a company’s gross revenue. The costs per package are not even close to enough to justify a change in product price.
- Bottle bill programs cost more for beverage companies than EPR, yet there is no difference in the price of beverages in states with a bottle bill and states without.
FACT: EPR for Packaging is the single most effective policy tool we can use to reduce waste, increase recycling, and save taxpayer money.
- Countries and provinces with EPR regularly achieve recycling rates above 50% without raising the overall cost of recycling, making them much more efficient than taxpayer-funded programs.
- Maine’s taxpayers currently spend at least $16 million a year just to manage packaging waste, and we have a low recycling rate of 36% and declining.
- It costs 67% more to recycle than dispose of waste on average—which makes it hard for Maine’s municipalities to maintain recycling programs.
Here is the truth you need to know about the so-called “York University studies” that LD 1541 opponents refer to before repeating their false claims:
The so-called “studies” for New York and Maine that opponents to LD 1541 have cited as reasons not to support this policy should not be taken seriously. They are not peer reviewed, not based in real data, and do not even use correct math. The single author has not published an academic paper since 2017 and admitted recently his paper was “hypothetical” and not statistically significant. There are zero citations for the assumptions used in the “Maine Study,” which reads more like a biased opinion piece than legitimate research. A team of researchers at the University of Maine has also expressed deep skepticism with the results.
This so-called study does not pass the academic straight face test, but here are just a few of the many reasons why this should be treated as patently false information:
- The amount of packaging is inflated by four times: The author begins with the assumption that Maine manages four times as much packaging as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection reports that we do; and one-third of the packaging material included in the “study” is printed paper like magazines and newspapers—which aren’t included in LD 1541.
- The total program cost is inflated by six times: The final figure for the cost of a stewardship program in Maine is a totally unrealistic six times higher than the most expensive Canadian program on a per capita basis.
- Bad math and unjustifiable reasoning are used to arrive at final conclusion: Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the author assumes that all costs would be directly passed to consumers by every producer. Even using this flawed data, he couldn’t quite inflate the number high enough to get the desired outcome for the companies who paid him to do the research. So he then arbitrarily multiplies the total cost by 2.73 before dividing it among Maine’s 518,200 households in order to wildly inflate that already bogus conclusion.
And this is the big talking point that the opposition is using to dissuade lawmakers from supporting the bill.
In other words—the total cost the author leads people to believe will be passed on to Maine households is three times more than the total cost figure they arrived at! I mean, bad data is one thing, but we should at least use good, simple math.
To learn more about why towns, small businesses, and Mainers across the state support EPR for Packaging, read a recent Bangor Daily News op-ed by Mark Draper of Aroostook Waste Solutions; a Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel op-ed by Ogunquit Transfer Station Manager John Fusco; or testimony in support by Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing Company.
—by Sarah Nichols, NRCM Sustainable Maine Director