STATEWIDE — Some legislators want to help cities in the state reduce waste.
Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, said the Maine Department of Environmental Protection estimated Maine taxpayers are paying at least $16 million per year to manage packaging materials. In other words, boxes, bottles and cartons.
“The department now estimates it to be 67 percent more expensive on average to recycle an item in Maine than it is to incinerate or landfill it,” she said.
The proposed bill would make manufacturers responsible for reducing waste. The way the state will help do this is through a program called the stewardship program, which manufactures can participate in or create their own.
“There is no question that municipalities are struggling with costs and complexities of the shifting waste management waste landscape and that they would like to support recycling programs,” said Grohoski.
“I just have one question, which is do we know who the biggest packaging producers are? What corporations might be most affected by this bill?” said Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford.
“It’s mostly multinational corporations,” said Grohoski.
“We need to shrink the waste stream itself and the responsibility for doing that cannot fall only on consumers and local governments. The companies that produce the packaging whether it’s labeled recyclable or not, there is significant responsibility as well and should be required to be an active part of the solutions,” said Rep. Lydia Crafts, D-Belfast.
Crafts said passing this bill would tell municipalities they’re not alone in this effort and the state is actively working to help Maine communities increase recycling and shrink waste streams.
Former State Sen. Amy Volk, director of communications and public relations at Volk Packaging Corporation, is against the bill.
“It’s relevant because when you impose fees essentially raising taxes on producers, manufacturers, job creators, and providers you are effectively punishing our hard-working employees,” she said.
Volk said she is worried her workplace would have to cut positions in order to subsidize the program.
Legislators will decide in a week whether to recommend this bill pass or fail to the legislature.