Senator Herbig, Representative Daughtry, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business, my name is Sarah Nichols and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I’m testifying in support of LD 1933.
NRCM has been a leading advocate of policies that support sustainable waste management solutions for decades. It is our experience that the uppermost tiers of Maine’s Solid Waste Management Hierarchy—waste reduction and reuse—are too often ignored in waste-related policy discussions, which makes this bill unique. LD 1933 gives us an opportunity to put the focus where it ought to be: on how to make it easier to avoid making waste in the first place.
Packaging waste in Maine is an enormous problem. These materials, which include plastics, cardboard, glass, and metals, make up 30-40% of our municipal solid waste stream and cost our municipal taxpayers an estimated $16-$17.5 million per year to manage through recycling or disposal. Maine’s municipalities are struggling with the costs and complexity of this waste stream, and as a result many are being forced to pay more for or cut back on their recycling programs. Municipalities need support, and we should tackle this packaging problem from all angles—we urgently need laws in place to ensure we are reducing, reusing, and recycling as much as we can.
To that point, LD 1933 complements another important bill that that is before the Legislature this session. The purpose of that bill is to incentivize packaging reduction and recycling by assigning more responsibility to the producers of packaging. The way it would work is that large brand-owners such as Walmart, Amazon, and Unilever would band together and compensate Maine’s municipalities for the costs of managing their packaging waste; and costs go down if there is less packaging to manage, and more recycling happening. This type of law, called Extended-Producer-Responsibility for Packaging, has been successfully implemented all over the world, on every continent, some for as long as 30 years. We need this law in Maine as soon as possible.
On a personal note, I’ve been frustrated when trying to reuse my existing containers. Some shops pour my coffee into a disposable cup before they pour it into my reusable cup; and I’ve often had market employees balk at me when I bring my own containers for bulk items.
We believe that regular use of reusable containers and packaging should be more mainstream, and that Maine’s food and retail businesses should be provided with clear guidance from the State on what the rules are. And if the rules are overly restrictive, then we should change them.
Thank you for your consideration and your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
 Source: Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s 2019 Annual Product Stewardship Report