Abby King, Toxics Policy Advocate
Good afternoon Senator Boyle, Representative Welsh, and distinguished members of the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Abby King; I am the Toxics Policy Advocate with the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
NRCM strongly supported the product stewardship framework bill approved by the legislature and enacted into law in 2010, and we support most of the provisions in the bill before you today to improve that law.
Maine’s “framework” product stewardship law provides an overarching structure for producer-run collection and recycling programs. Between 1991 and 2009, six separate product stewardship programs were considered, debated, and enacted on a somewhat ad hoc basis here in Maine. This product-by-product approach included electronic waste, mercury-containing switches in cars, cell phones, and compact fluorescent bulbs.
The goal in establishing a framework policy was to create a process in statute that would guide the DEP in its evaluation of potential new product stewardship programs using a step-by-step process and standardized set of selection criteria that would assist both the agency and the legislature moving forward.
Our framework structure directs DEP to prioritize products as candidates for product stewardship so that the most problematic, expensive, dangerous, onerous, or toxic products â the ones that would best be managed through product stewardship â can be considered for inclusion in the system. It also provides a more predictable policy environment for manufacturers or others that would be potentially impacted by new programs, and it provides for public input into the process for establishing new product stewardship programs.
These are important achievements, but our current law is missing some important elements. It does not provide guidance on how new product stewardship programs should be implemented, operated, or evaluated. LD 1335 will help provide those details.
As I said, Maine’s framework product stewardship law only provides a structure for how candidate products are evaluated, but it doesn’t address key implementation details for creating a program for a new products. The law can be improved through language that create greater uniformity for programs and baseline requirements for how new programs are brought on-line. LD 1335 refines the law to establish a more complete framework for how programs would be planned, executed, overseen, reported, and evaluated, so that Maine continues to use the tools provided by product stewardship to best protect the environment and human health.
Maine’s leadership in product stewardship would benefit from improvements like what has been proposed in the Department’s 2012 annual report, “Implementing Product Stewardship in Maine,” and is before you today in the form of LD 1335. Attached to my testimony are suggested amendments to the bill that we believe would create the best structure for how the DEP and product manufacturers develop and implement new product stewardship programs in the future. It’s important to note that this expanded implementation framework creates only a minimum, baseline structure for new program elementsâsuch as what information must be included in a new program plan or annual report. Policies that have been proven effective in other states may very well depart from these specifics and, going forward, Maine may decide to implement new programs based on these experiences. The bottom line is that if we follow our existing framework law and put into place the suggested changes before you today, then Maine will be able to ensure that new programs at least meet baseline implementation criteria that move us in a good direction.
Lastly, I would like to note that NRCM does not support the provisions in this bill outside of the framework changes. The final two provisions in LD 1335 would repeal the requirement for cell phone retail locations to serve as recycling collection points for old unwanted cell phones. This change is not necessary and would only risk decreasing the amount of cell phones diverted from the waste stream each year in Maine and thus increase the potential for toxic metals and chemicals to find their way to landfills and incinerators. I urge the Committee to maintain the provisions in 38 MRSA §2143 requiring retail stores to continue to collect used cell phones for recycling.
In summary, NRCM supports the improvements to Maine’s framework law, as described in our attached amended version of LD 1335. I appreciate your consideration of this amendment.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment and I’d be happy to answer any questions.