AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine might become the first state in the country to adopt a program that shifts the cost of recycling and disposal of packaging from the public to manufacturers.
The Maine House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to advance a proposal that would charge companies for the cost of getting rid of non-recyclable packaging materials. The money would then support a fund cities and towns could use to expand their own recycling programs.
The approach, sometimes called “extended producer responsibility,” has been used in Canada and Europe. It creates incentives for companies to create more easily recyclable or reusable materials and craft their own recycling programs, supporters have said.
Taxpayers in Maine currently spend about $16 million annually to manage packaging materials, and only about 36% of the materials are recycled, said Democratic Rep. Nicole Grohoski, the bill's sponsor.
“For the sake of our taxpayers and our environment, we cannot afford to maintain the status quo. As we’ve seen in Canada and Europe, creating an EPR for Packaging program would improve municipal recycling at no extra cost to consumers,” Grohoski said.
The proposal is scheduled to face more votes before the Maine Legislature. It would also need the approval of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. Mills signed off on some changes to the bill, but has also expressed concerns about how it would handle disposal costs, the Bangor Daily News reported.
The proposal faces resistance from some business groups, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. The groups are concerned the changes would burden them with a new cost during the recovery of the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, the Bangor Daily News reported.