When stores routinely hand out an unlimited number of single-use disposable bags, we end up creating a lot of unnecessary waste. Moving away from our reliance on single-use disposal shopping bags is a common-sense way to discourage wastefulness and prevent windswept plastic litter. Simply reminding people that it’s a good idea to shop with reusable bags isn’t enough to solve this problem and there are more effective approaches your town can take. Join hundreds of other communities by creating a program that offers an incentive for people to shop with reusable bags.
Want to make reusable bags out of t-shirts? Use our handy how-to sheet to learn how to recycle your t-shirts into new reusable bags! This is a great project for your local Scout troops, environmental clubs, and other student groups.
Maine Statewide Ban on Single-use Plastic Shopping Bags:
In 2019, Maine Governor Janet Mills and the Legislature passed two significant bills into law that target two top sources of plastic pollution: single-use plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food ware. There have been a lot of questions about how the new plastic bag law will be implemented, so to help Maine residents, towns, and businesses better understand what it means to them, our Sustainable ME team created this handy summary:
Goes into effect: April 22, 2020 (Earth Day)
Applies to: All grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, and any seasonal or temporary stores or markets. No retail establishment may distribute a single-use plastic shopping bag.
Retail Establishments May:
- provide a recyclable paper bag or reusable plastic bag for a minimum of five cents. BUT large paper bags must contain a minimum of 20% post-consumer recycled content.
- continue to provide plastic produce bags. Plastic bags may also still be used to wrap newspapers, dry cleaning, or tires. BUT stores that provide exempted single-use plastic bags must offer recycling stations within 20 feet of the store’s entrance and must make sure that those products are in fact recycled.
- still sell plastic trash bags for people to use at home.
Exemption: Restaurants and small local community shops that do not sell food will not have to charge a fee for a paper or reusable plastic bag.
Pre-empts All Local Ordinances that Regulate Plastic Shopping Bags On the effective date all impacted businesses in Maine must follow the state law only. The new law is stronger than any local ordinance that has been adopted to date.
Below is a full list of Maine towns that have passed bag ordinances.
We will continue to update this list as more towns and municipalities pass new ordinances. If you have information about a Maine town not on this list, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Maine Municipality||Basic Ordinance Structure||Date Implemented|
|Portland||Five-cent fee on paper and plastic bags at stores with greater than 2% food sales||April 15, 2015|
|South Portland||Five-cent fee on paper and plastic bags at stores with greater than 2% food sales||March 1, 2016|
|York||Ban on all plastic carryout bags||March 1, 2016|
|Falmouth||Five-cent fee on paper and plastic bags at stores that are 10,000 square feet and larger||April 1, 2016|
|Freeport||Ban on plastic bags and five-cent fee on paper bags at stores with greater than 2% food sales. It does not affect retailers.||September 12, 2016|
|Kennebunk||Ban on all plastic carryout bags||October 14, 2016|
|Topsham||Five-cent fee on paper and plastic bags at stores with greater than 2% of food sales||May 7, 2017|
|Brunswick||Ban on single-use plastic bags||September 1, 2017|
|Saco||Ban on single-use plastic bags||October 1, 2017|
|Cape Elizabeth||Five-cent fee on single-use carryout bags at farm stands and stores where food generates at least 2 percent of overall sales||December 6, 2017|
|Belfast||Ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene carryout containers||January 1, 2018|
|Bath||Ban on single-use plastic bags, five-cent fee on paper bags with escalating fee to 15 cents after third year||April 22, 2018|
|Manchester||Ban on single-use plastic bags||July 1, 2018|
|Blue Hill||Ban on single-use plastic bags||June 2018|
|Rockland||Ban on single-use plastic bags and foam containers||January 1, 2019|
|Bar Harbor||Ban on single-use plastic bags||February 14, 2019|
|Damariscotta||Ban on single-use plastic bags||March 1, 2019|
|Newcastle||Ban on single-use plastic bags||March 1, 2019|
|Southwest Harbor||Ban on single-use plastic bags||April 22, 2019|
|Camden||Ban on single-use plastic bags||April 30, 2019|
|Mount Desert||Ban on single-use plastic bags||May 8, 2019|
|Biddeford||Ban on single-use plastic bags||July 15, 2019|
|Waterville||Ban on single-use plastic bags at retail stores of 10,000 square feet or more||Takes effect on September 1, 2019|
|Tremont||Ban on single-use plastic bags||Takes effect on October 21, 2019|
|Bethel||Ban on single-use plastic bags||Takes effect on January 11, 2020|
Other Reusable Bag Resources
- Bring Your Own Bag York website: An excellent example of a community focused citizen run information hub regarding the reusable bag policy.
- Bring Your Own Bag Waterville website: An excellent example of a community focused citizen run information hub regarding the reusable bag policy.
- Portland, Maine’s Green Scene website: Detailed information provided by the City of Portland about their bag and foam policies
- Baglaws.com: a resource about laws related to plastic and paper bags across the United States
- Montgomery County, Maryland website : Comprehensive information about the bag program in Montgomery County, Maryland, which applies to 21 municipalities
- Environmental impact comparison between plastic and paper bags: This is a summary of overall environmental impacts between plastic and paper bags, using a compilation of various studies.
- “What is a ‘Reusable’ Bag?”: Information and definitions related to single-use and reusable bags
- Hannaford position letter on Portland’s bag ordinance
- NRCM blog post: “Five cents for a disposable bag? No thanks, I’ve brought my own!”
- New York Times editorial: “Ten cents a bag? That’s about right.“
- Washington Post blog: “The surprising reason why those 5 cent charges for plastic bags actually work”
- The Majestic Plastic Bag—A Mockumentary: This four-minute YouTube video cleverly explains what happens to a plastic bag in the environment.
- List of U.S. municipalities with bag ordinances, compiled by Portland’s Green Packaging Task Force
- List of all municipal bag ordinances, from the Surfrider Foundation website