Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to speak in support of LD 1594, which would protect our rechargeable battery stewardship program and provide Maine citizens with a convenient and sustainable disposal option for all consumer batteries.
NRCM is a strong advocate of extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs, where producers are responsible for the post-consumer recovery of their products rather than local governments or taxpayers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries – 180,000 tons in total— that contain toxic materials like nickel, cadmium, cobalt, and lead that should not be released into the environment. About half of these batteries are single-use alkaline batteries, and when placed end-to-end these dead alkaline batteries would circle the world at least six times.
It’s estimated that 28 million primary and rechargeable batteries are sold in Maine each year. Maine currently has a long-standing successful EPR program for the rechargeable batteries called Call2Recycle; but this program struggles with the free-riders. The problem is that it’s common for people to confuse single-use batteries with rechargeable ones, and as a result many are ending up in the collection bins; but the manufacturers of those batteries are not obligated to help pay for the recycling of those batteries, which is not fair and threatens the efficacy of our existing program.
This is not first time NRCM has advocated for a bill that would create an EPR program for all consumer batteries. In 2016 we worked with lawmakers, waste professionals, local governments, and representatives from the battery industry to carefully craft legislation to assure that all of those responsible for placing batteries into the marketplace pay their fair share of managing batteries.  However, after unanimous committee support this bill was tabled indefinitely in the Senate.
For this program to work, it is essential for it to include all batteries, including those sold into the market inside of other products, like toys. If any exemptions are made then it would legally allow free-riders, which is in direct opposition to one of the primary reasons for this legislation.
A key aspect of the bill requires companies that make battery-containing products sold in Maine to use batteries from manufacturers that participate in the EPR program; if the manufacturer of that product decides to use a non-participating battery brand then they will be responsible for helping to fund the program. This is an important way to fairly distribute costs and make the program more successful.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these comments, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
Visit https://www.call2recycle.org/ for more program information; law established by MRS Title 38 Chapter 24 §2165. Regulation of certain dry cell batteries in 1991.