by Abby King, NRCM Toxics Policy Advocate
Good Afternoon Chairman Boyle, Chairman Welsh, and distinguished members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. My name is Abby King and I am a Policy Advocate with the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
I am here to testify Neither For Nor Against LD 1292. We strongly support efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of plastic bags, and creating opportunities to minimize and reduce waste through the increased use of recyclable bags. The benefits to the wildlife and wild places of Maine would benefit us all.
While some municipalities in other states have demonstrated that a price per bag can help accelerate the transition to reusable bags and waste reduction, that approach has not yet been adopted at any state level.
In 2009 NRCM joined the State Planning Office, the Maine Merchants Association, and the Maine Grocers Association in an MOU meant to decrease the distribution of disposable bags, encourage retailers to become a part of the “Got your Bags” effort, and ensure compliance with the existing law that requires plastic checkout bag recycling at retailers.
Some elements of the MOU have been fulfilled. Certainly, as you saw with Ms. Doak’s testimony, Hannaford stores have increased the level of signage in their parking lots and stores, and increased the availability of reusable bags for sale at checkout.
NRCM believes that more progress can be achieved. I doubt there’s a single person in this room that doesn’t have a pile of plastic bags at home, bags that we used because we forgot to bring our reusable ones with us to the store. We are moving in the right direction, and need to move further still.
To make the necessary improvements, we need more information about the performance of the Got Your Bags initiative. Many of the goals and commitments outlined in the MOU are impossible to report on because neither the agency, nor those taking the commendable voluntary action that they have under this initiative, have collected this information through measuring the bulk purchase or distribution of disposable bags at retail stores or through surveying participating stores. To the best of my knowledge we do not have a baseline number to measure progress against and we do not know the change in the number or weight of disposable bags distributed over the past four years.
I would encourage the committee to explore the options available to you to collect this type of information; to support efforts by the stakeholders to do more advertising, outreach and education; and increase access to reusable bags so that voluntary programs such as Got Your Bags have the potential to succeed, and that participants are able to prove that success to those keeping a watchful eye.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and I’d be happy to answer any questions.