Makes Switch to Reusable Shopping Bags
NRCM news release
June 17, 2019 (Augusta, ME) – Maine has become the third state in the nation to ban the use of single-use plastic shopping bags statewide. The move comes shortly after the state became the first in the nation to ban polystyrene foam food containers.
Today, Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 1532, a collaborative bill sponsored by Representative Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) and supported by conservationists, grocers, and retailers who worked together to craft a consistent, statewide approach for reducing pollution caused by single-use plastic bags while promoting reusable shopping bags.
“Single-use plastics are a growing and persistent pollution problem that endanger wildlife, cost our towns money, and threaten Maine’s tourism and fishing industries,” said Sarah Lakeman, NRCM Sustainable Maine Director. “Making the switch to reusable bags in Maine is a common-sense step we can take to protect Maine’s natural beauty by addressing this significant source of plastic pollution.”
The new law, which goes into effect on Earth Day (April 22, 2020)*, will address harmful plastic pollution and help Maine’s towns save money by:
- Prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags at the point of sale at retail establishments in Maine; and
- Placing a minimum five-cent fee on recycled paper bags available at the point of sale at most retail locations, to provide an incentive for shoppers to use reusable bags.
Globally, about one million plastic shopping bags are distributed per minute. Plastic bag pollution also poses a serious threat to birds, turtles, whales, and other animals who mistake them for food or get entangled causing slow deaths.
Single-use plastic bags are also increasingly a costly issue for Maine’s towns. If they are mistakenly placed in recycling bins they can often jam equipment and are considered contamination, which causes recycling loads to be rejected. The littered plastic bags are also expensive to clean out of trees, fences, and storm drains.
Maine joins California and New York in banning single-use plastic bags statewide. Hawaii effectively bans plastic shopping bags statewide through a combination of county-wide laws. Twenty-five Maine cities and towns—home to more than 21% of the state’s population—have already passed ordinances to limit single-use plastic shopping bags.
“All across Maine people are saying no to plastics,” said Lakeman. “This new law is a testament to the power that local people have in creating systematic change. It reflects the deeply held value that Mainers place on our natural environment and the communities it supports.”
- Read the joint press release when the bill received its public hearing.
- See the list of Maine cities and towns that have passed bag ordinances.
- Learn more about the problem of plastic pollution.
* March 2020 update: Please note that the effective date of Maine’s ban on single-use plastic bags has been delayed until January 15, 2021, as part of a package of measures to respond to COVID-19.