by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Clean Production Project Director
Good afternoon Senator Saviello, Representative Hamper and members of the Committee. My name is Matt Prindiville, and I’m the Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), NRCM supports LD 1320, and we thank Representative Welsh for bringing this issue to the attention of the Committee.
To start, I would like to step back in time to 2003 when I first started working at NRCM. At that time, I contributed to the testimony, of my then boss – who is now your colleague, Representative Jon Hinck – on funding for household hazardous waste collection in Maine. As I remember, that bill, which included a fee on the sale of paint and pesticides to fund municipal collection, made it out of committee, passed both Houses of the Legislature and died on the table because of intense lobbying around the fee proposal.
Since then, with the exception of some grants provided to towns for the creation of universal waste storage sheds and occasional collection days, very little has happened on this issue, and Maine people continue to have few, if any, options for disposing of hazardous waste in their homes, basements and garages. Because of this, many of us have stockpiles that are increasingly growing because we can’t seem to get to that one HHW day that our town has each year. The products, some of which are stored in corroding containers, can pose a health risk to our families, neighbors, solid waste workers and the environment if poorly handled or improperly disposed of.
And they’re not just being stockpiled. Because some towns charge residents and businesses for the disposal of HHW, some people decide to pour these products down the drain, dump them onto the ground, or toss them – containers and all – onto other people’s property.
Now, I’ve since testified on two other bills concerning HHW, and they both provided band-aid types of solutions because they didn’t address the key issue which is ongoing, sustainable funding for collection – i.e. who’s going to pay for the costly collection and disposal or recycling of these potentially dangerous products?
This brings me back to last year, where during the discussion on the framework product stewardship bill, Representative Hamper asked me, “what’s on the short list” of products that NRCM would like to see covered by new product stewardship programs. I responded that household hazardous waste should be a top priority, because of the high costs to towns, the danger posed to Maine people and the environment from improper handling and/or disposal, and the successful HHW product stewardship programs in other parts of the world.
We think that HHW should be collected through a new product stewardship initiative. In much of Canada and parts of Europe, residents can drop off their HHW for free both at municipal collection sites and privately-run depots, some of which also collect bottles, e-waste and other types of products covered by product stewardship programs. These products are then shipped to processors. The latex paint is recycled into new paint. Waste oil is recycled into new oil-based products. The oil-based paint, waste gasoline and other flammable products are synthesized into industrial fuels, and the old pesticides and other toxic products – which cannot be recycled or used as fuel – are properly disposed of – so as not to contaminate the environment or harm people’s health.
These programs are set up, funded and run by the companies and trade associations that sell these products into the provinces. They contract with stewardship organizations, which act as service providers to run the operations and logistics. Paint stewardship programs have been around for a long time in much Canada, and while the other products have only recently been added in several provinces, they are wildly exceeding initial targets for collection.
This committee has the opportunity to do something about the largest part of the HHW stream in a few weeks when you take up the product stewardship bill on paint on April 29th and we look forward to that discussion.
In the interim, it’s important for Maine municipalities to provide this service and have some access to funding. This bill ensures that Maine citizens have at least two days a year to dispose of household hazardous waste. It also expressly authorizes the use of the Maine Solid Waste Management Fund to help finance these initiatives making them more workable for our cash-strapped towns. It is another band-aid type of solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.
In addition, it requires larger towns and cities to set up municipal composting for household yard waste, which NRCM also supports. I haven’t devoted any time to this, because it seems like a no-brainer. It’s our hope that more and more of the waste stream is diverted from away from landfills and incinerators through product stewardship initiatives funded and operated by manufacturers, leaving towns and municipal governments to spend their money on schools, roads, football, music programs or tax breaks rather than paying to deal with the costly disposal of products like HHW.
While we support this bill, we think that it is an interim step, and that the real solution for household hazardous waste funding lies with product stewardship. Thank you for your time. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.