AUGUSTA — Maine has become the first state in the nation to pass a law shifting municipal recycling and waste disposal costs from local taxpayers to package manufacturers.

Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law July 12 that enhances municipal recycling programs and will decrease property taxes. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, establishes an extended producer responsibility program, known as “EPR for Packaging.”

The bill levies fees on manufacturers based on the weight of packaging material sold. The revenue will then be used to support municipal recycling. The bill also creates an incentive for companies to reduce wasteful packaging.

“I’m proud that, once again, Maine is a national leader when it comes to commonsense environmental protections,” Grohoski said. “This new law assures every Maine community that help with recycling and lowering the property tax burden is on the way. It’s time for packaging producers to take responsibility for their waste stream in the Pine Tree State, as they do in more than 40 other countries and regions worldwide.”

According to a House Democratic Office press release, the program, run by a stewardship organization contracted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, will use producer payments to cover the program’s operating costs, pay department fees and make investments in education and infrastructure to reduce future packaging waste in Maine.

Maine already has eight EPR laws for other items, such as electronic waste, paint and products that contain mercury, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine. In June, Mills also signed LD 8, which creates an EPR program for unused medications.

Bill advocate Rep. S. Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, who has worked alongside Grohoski, said this bill will help increase recycling and reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfills while helping towns with their costs.

The measure is not without critics who say costs paid by manufacturers will be passed on to consumers, though advocates say there is little evidence to support this claim. Businesses and national trade groups also say it will be expensive, disruptive and hard for companies to understand.

According to the press release, on or before Dec. 31, 2023, DEP will begin the rulemaking process necessary for the implementation, administration and enforcement of the program.

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