How EPR for Packaging Became Law in Maine
Maine’s first-in-the-nation Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging policy was signed into law by Governor Mills on July 12, 2021 after several years of collaboration between municipalities, residents, local businesses, lawmakers, and the environmental community.
Supporters of EPR for Packaging will continue to play a key role in implementing and protecting this transformational policy that reforms and improves how we manage waste to reduce pollution and save taxpayer money. NRCM could not do the work we do to protect Maine’s environment and preserve Maine’s reputation as an environmental leader without broad level of support for our shared goals.
EPR for Packaging was passed because Maine’s communities are struggling with rising costs of an ever-growing flood of wasteful packaging materials, much of which is single-use plastics. Many supporters of EPR recognize the law will reduce packaging waste and clear up confusion about what can be recycled. They understand that Maine’s economy depends on a clean and healthy environment, and our reputation as an eco-friendly state with spectacular outdoor spaces draws thousands of tourists. And they believe that it’s fair to require the producers of packaging to do their part in ensuring the long-term viability of recycling and do more to reduce the waste they create—because it’s the right thing to do.
History of Support for EPR for Packaging in Maine
- The first piece of legislation that enabled the development of Maine’s EPR for Packaging law was a resolve filed at the end of 2018. LD 1431, a Resolve, To Support Municipal Recycling Programs, which received support from a wide range of interests, passed the Legislature with unanimous support, and was signed by the Governor in May 2019. It required the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to present statutory language to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) that would establish a stewardship program for packaging.
- The Maine DEP also recommended that the Legislature consider legislation for a stewardship program for packaging in the 2019 Annual Product Stewardship Report to the Legislature.
- Maine DEP presented the statutory language to the ENR committee in January 2020, which they reported out as a bill, LD 2104, An Act to Support and Increase the Recycling of Packaging. The bill had a public hearing that lasted over 8 hours and received 181 pieces of testimony, 73% of which was favorable. That bill ultimately passed the Committee, but the pandemic led to an abrupt adjournment of the Legislature, which never met again to work on any of the pending legislation.
- Representative Nicole Grohoski and lead co-sponsor Senator Rick Bennett refiled the EPR for Packaging bill, LD 1541, An Act to Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs and Save Taxpayer Money. Plastic manufacturers and producers of packaging also filed a competing bill, LD 1471, that would have been largely ineffective.
- LD 1541 received a lengthy, virtual, combined public hearing and was ultimately passed by the Legislature.
Read the testimony on the winning bill, LD 1541 here, and the testimony on losing bill, LD 1471 here. There were 70 testimonies in support of LD1541 from a wide diversity of stakeholders including large and small local business owners; municipal staff, local elected officials, and local recycling committee volunteers; solid waste professionals and transfer station managers; state lawmakers; non-profit & religious institutions; taxpayers; middle & high school students; undergraduate and graduate school students; and University of Maine faculty. By contrast, there were only 15 testimonies in support of the industry bill, LD 1471. Not a single Maine taxpayer, municipality, solid waste professional, nonprofit, or business owner supported LD 1471. Fourteen of 15 testimonies came from out-of-state industry lobbyists for big corporations. Only one testimony came from a Maine lobbying group. There were a total of 41 testimonies in opposition to LD 1471, including NRCM’s.
Establishing Widespread Support of EPR for Packaging in Maine
- Thirty Maine municipalities representing more than 325,000 people passed municipal resolutions in support of an EPR for Packaging law, see the resolutions adopted by those towns and cities below.
- Look to the right to see the many Maine businesses that support Maine’s EPR for Packaging law passed by LD 1541.
- See the names and inspiring comments of the 2,253 people that signed NRCM’s petition urging lawmakers to enact an EPR for Packaging law in Maine.
- And Maine’s EPR for Packaging bills (LD 2104 and LD 1541) were a top priority for Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition, which is a partnership of 36 environmental, conservation, and public health organizations representing members who work to protect the good health, good jobs, and high quality of life that our environment provides.
- Local businesses and municipal leaders wrote compelling op-eds for statewide newspapers.
Maine Towns that Passed Recycling Reform Resolutions
Businesses that Supported EPR for Packaging Bill
Agri-Cycle, Daniel Bell
Allagash Brewing Company, Rob Tod
Bees, Birds, & Bugs, Bethe Hagens
Business Systems Management Inc., Melanie Hodgdon
Coastal Cafe and Bakery, Celine & Patrick Kelley
Craignair Inn by the Sea & Causeway Restaurant,
Greg & Lauren Soutiea
Dental Lace LLC, Jodi Breau
Gardiner Food Co-op, Kendall Holmes
Go Go Refill, Laura Marston
JAK Designs, Jennifer Armstrong
Little Dog Coffee Shop, Mason Palmatier
Maine Beer Company, Daniel Kleban
Patagonia, Dana Wilfahrt
Toad&Co, Giuliana Orsky
Vagabond Coffee Truck, Ethan Whited
We Compost It, Tyler Gleason
We Fill Good, Marla Baldassare
Wholistic Nutrition & Chiropractic Center, Roger Nadeau, DC
Read What Maine Businesses are Saying:
“As a Maine-based business, we’re working hard to do the right thing for our environment with our zero waste commitment. While local businesses like mine have taken take steps to reduce waste, we need the big corporations that produce packaging materials to do their part, too. That’s why I support the EPR for Packaging law being backed by NRCM and Maine’s municipalities.” —Jodi Breau, Owner of Dental Lace
“As a Maine business focused on waste-reduction we hear first-hand from Maine residents who are frustrated by overly packaged products. Maine taxpayers don't want to be burdened with excess packaging, and they are shocked and dismayed when their recycling services are cut. Reforming Maine's recycling is the proper way to move forward for the environment, and for Maine residents.” —Laura Marston, Owner of GoGo Refill