BOSTON, MA (July 13, 2021) — Maine has become the nation’s first state to require producers of packaged goods (consumer brands) sold in the state to finance the maintenance and expansion of municipal recycling programs. The bill, which was introduced by State Representative Nicole Grohoski, was signed into law this morning by Governor Janet Mills.
Under the new law, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (ME DEP) will select and contract with a stewardship organization to operate a packaging stewardship program that will reimburse and assist municipalities in providing recycling services throughout the state. Brand owners selling packaged goods must pay fees on all packaging materials to the stewardship organization to fund the system based on the costs of recycling for each material, including infrastructure investments or resident education needed to capture materials statewide. The fee structure, to be determined by DEP rule with multi-stakeholder input, will also include financial incentives for recyclable packaging.
“With this new law, Maine residents will save millions of dollars and finally be on a path to a stable recycling system,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI). “It will also provide producers with the financial incentive to make more sustainable packaging.”
Producers will conduct an assessment of the statewide recycling system to determine the funds needed for the program, collection and recycling infrastructure gaps in the state, and consumer education needed to ensure robust recycling. The law also provides an “on-ramp” to the recycling system for more challenging packaging materials, allowing producers to establish, fund, and operate “alternative collection programs” to facilitate reuse and recycling of these materials.
PSI has promoted extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging for the past 15 years and developed a model bill that has informed legislation introduced in eight states, including Maine, over the past two years. Maine’s bill was driven in large part by Sarah Nichols, Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). The new law represents one of several approaches to packaging EPR that are actively under consideration across the country.
Maine has been a leader in establishing successful EPR laws in the U.S. Working with PSI, state and local governments, NRCM, and other key players, Maine was the first state in the country to pass EPR legislation for electronics in 2004, mercury thermostats in 2006, mercury-containing light bulbs in 2009, and a framework law in 2010 that establishes a process for applying an EPR approach to managing a range of postconsumer products. It has also passed EPR laws for paint, auto switches, batteries, and—as of June 11—pharmaceuticals. The ninth EPR law overall for Maine, this new packaging EPR program will generate recycling jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal, and address the inequitable environmental and health impacts of our waste system on vulnerable communities.
About the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI)
PSI is a national nonprofit bringing diverse stakeholders together to reduce the health and environmental impacts of consumer products and packaging with a strong focus on sustainable end-of-life management. PSI has built capacity for product stewardship in the U.S. for more than 20 years—together with 47 state environmental agency members, hundreds of local government members, and over 120 partners from business, universities, organizations, and international governments.