Testimony in Opposition of LD 425 and LD 572, Legislation to Repeal Maine’s Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags and the Fee on Other Bags Offered at Retail Stores
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 in opposition of LD 425 and LD 572.
In 2019, the 129th Legislature voted to adopt LD 1532, which made Maine the fourth state¹ in the nation to promote the use of reusable shopping bags by curbing the unlimited distribution of single-use plastic shopping bags. LD 1532 received overwhelming public support, including from the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association and the Retail Association of Maine. NRCM worked closely with each of these organizations to develop the legislative language that was signed into law. In 2021, this Committee considered several bills to repeal this legislation, and we remained unified in our position to preserve the law then (see our joint letter to the Committee), and we continue to be united in opposition today.
NRCM encourages the Committee to continue to protect Maine’s plastic bag reduction law, 38 MRSA §1611, and vote ought-not-to-pass on both bills:
- If LD 425 were enacted, Maine would no longer have a statewide policy, which means that retail establishments throughout the state would revert to administering a patchwork of existing local laws.² This inconsistency would create administrative burden on our retail community and worsen over time as more Maine people demand more local action on plastic pollution; and
- The emergency preamble in LD 572 claims that removal of a five-cent fee on paper and reusable bags should be done as soon as possible to protect residents from the economic burden of the fee; But it fails to recognize that any person wanting to avoid the fee can already do so by bring their own bag to the store or not using a bag at all. The point of the mandatory fee is to encourage the reduction and reuse of bags.
NRCM firmly believes that the reasons why the Legislature enacted the existing law remain as valid today as they did then; and maybe even more so as our society continues to learn about the devasting impacts of our irresponsible misuse of plastic,³ which unjustly burdens our most vulnerable communities.4 Plastic carry-out bags are among the low-hanging fruit of unnecessary uses of plastic since they cause much more harm throughout their life cycle than any momentary usefulness of transporting goods home from the store. Before the ban went into effect, people collected far more than could feasibly be re-used at home;5 despite the existence of film recycling bins, less than 6% of plastic bags were recycled;6 and education programs aimed at trying to reduce the use or recycling of plastic bags were not effective.7 Further, plastic film is a primary source of contamination in Maine’s recycling programs and often tangles in recycling equipment, costing time, money, and other resources.
For all these reasons, Maine’s plastic bag reduction policy was, and still is, a policy supported by people throughout the state of Maine. We urge you to reject these bills and any other proposals that would move Maine backwards. Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and I would be happy to answer any questions that you have.
 Eight states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont—have banned single-use plastic bags.
 Maine towns and cities with plastic bag policies include (* indicates fee instead of ban): Portland*, South Portland*, Brunswick, Topsham, Camden, Rockport, Rockland, Bar Harbor, York, Falmouth*, Freeport, Kennebunk, Saco, Cape Elizabeth, Belfast, Bath, Manchester, Blue Hill, Damariscotta, Newcastle, Southwest Harbor, Waterville*, Biddeford, Tremont, and Mount Desert.
 38 MRSA §1611 allows people to continue to purchase plastic bags who wish to use them for lining garbage pails , collecting kitty litter, or other uses.
 According to the EPA’s 2009 Municipal Waste Characterization Study, the recycling rate for plastic HDPE films (plastic bags, sacks, & wraps) was 6.1%. Plastic bags are only a small portion of that.
 In 2009, under legislative directive, there was 14-member working group to explore creating a voluntary program, as opposed to a statewide ban or fee on disposable bags, which resulted in the Got Your Bags, Maine? Campaign, which was proven ineffective. When Portland was considering their ordinance in 2014, an NRCM volunteer visited 43 stores and found not a single one featured the Got your Bags campaign message.