New Maine legislation is looking to shift recycling costs from taxpayers to the companies that produce packaging.
The bill would impose fees on bottles, boxes, food wrappers, and other packaging to fund waste programs. Manufacturers of products contained, protected, delivered, presented, or distributed in or using packaging material would pay into a fund based on the amount of weight of packaging material associated with the products they sell, offer for sale, or distribute for sale in or into the state of Maine.
Known as “An Act to Support and Improve Municipal Recycling Programs and Save Taxpayer Money,” the bill supports a concept known as extended producer responsibility (EPR). Under the legislation, regulators would calculate the fee on packaging from each company, and the revenue would reimburse local governments for recycling, waste hauling, and landfilling, which costs Maine residents an estimated $17 million a year.
Those against the pending legislation argue that consumer brands should be able to manage the tax revenue and spend it on recycling themselves, while the Maine legislature believes the municipalities should be compensated for waste hauling, landfill costs, and recycling efforts. “We want to make sure the funding from packaging that isn’t recyclable right now doesn’t go to landfilling, but instead funds recycling infrastructure,” said Andy Hackman, a lobbyist for the Flexible Packaging Association, in a prepared statement.
While some companies are in favor of the concept, with Dow Chemical Co., PepsiCo, and Nestlé endorsing the idea of fees earlier this year, most are not thrilled with the loss of authority on controlling their own recycling efforts.
The Consumer Brands Association, representing the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, weighed in on the legislation as it was being considered. “We appreciate the Maine legislature’s willingness to review our input and include our recommendations on disposal costs, the rule-making process, and the addition of a needs assessment in the final draft of the bill,” says Jen Daulby, the organization’s senior vice president of government affairs. “Despite best efforts, calling the final bill an extended producer responsibility program is a misnomer, as far too much control rests with state bureaucracy.”
While 12 states have already introduced EPR bills in 2021, Maine is the lone state that has already brought it to a vote with state House lawmakers approving the bill on June 16 and Senate lawmakers passing the bill a day later. It currently sits with the governor for her signature.
If passed, the bill would make Maine the first state to tax companies for recycling efforts.