Testimony Neither for Nor Against LD 1171, An Act to Raise Funding to Support Waste Reduction, Reuse, Recycling and Composting in Maine
Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Nichols, and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to speak to you neither for nor against LD 1171.
NRCM endorses the fundamental rationale behind LD 1171, which is the use of financial incentives to encourage generators of waste to move materials up the solid waste hierarchy. However, we do not believe that now is the right time to impose a significant $5 per ton increase to Maine’s municipal taxpayers for disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) or municipal solid waste ash, nor for disposal of construction and demolition debris (CDD), or residue from processing that debris. We reach this conclusion for three reasons:
- First, municipalities that have contracted with Casella to dispose of their sludge have experienced a sudden unanticipated price increase, and this proposal would impose yet another significant increase for which they haven’t budgeted.
- Second, municipalities continue to struggle with the cost of managing packaging materials through recycling or disposal while they await the benefits of Maine’s new Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging law due to be implemented by 2027. Benefits of that law include an equitable shift of waste management costs from taxpayers to the producers of packaging waste and creating more opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle, and avoid disposal fees throughout the state. We believe a better time to consider higher disposal fees would be after the EPR for Packaging program has been implemented.
- And third, at the present time, Maine has limited options for moving CDD materials up the waste hierarchy. Thus, it would not be fair for the State to increase CDD disposal costs until more sustainable waste management options are widely available.
We also are concerned that LD 1171 is not clear about how the funds generated through the fee increases would be utilized and how that might impact existing beneficial programs. The $2/ton fee generated from MSW and MSW ash is currently being deposited into the Maine Solid Waste Management Fund, which supports the Maine Solid Waste Diversion Grant Program. And the $2/ton generated from CDD is currently used to reimburse municipalities for landfill closure costs, and there is an additional $3/ton CDD disposal fee accumulating to the Maine Redevelopment Land Bank Fund.
Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and I am happy to answer any questions.