Maine Passes First State Law on Plastic Producer Accountability
By Romero Halloway
Maine may be tucked away in the northeastern most corner of the union, but for those advocating greater attention to the scourge of plastic pollution, the Pine Tree State is at the center of much-needed change.
In mid-July, Maine became the first state to pass a law holding producers of plastic packaging financially responsible for recycling the materials they generate, paving the way for other states to follow.
Oregon advanced a similar bill through both legislative houses in July, and Governor Kate Brown signed it on August 10th, meaning Oregon has followed Maine to become the second state to pass a similar bill.
"I’m proud that, once again, Maine is a national leader when it comes to commonsense environmental protections," said Nicole Grohoski, a state lawmaker, in a statement. "This new law assures every Maine community that help with recycling and lowering the property tax burden is on the way."
The Governor of Maine, Janet Mills, signed LD 1541 into law on July 13th.
The bill is based on the principle of extended producer responsibility and holds that the producers of plastics and not individual consumers should bear the cost of recycling. While relatively new to the United States, the legal concept has been adopted by several European countries and Canadian provinces. Quebec, Maine’s neighbor to the north, has also adopted a similar law based on a theory of extended producer responsibility.
Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a theory that holds manufacturers and producers of a given product responsible for the environmental impacts of that product throughout its life cycle. This includes upstream impacts like material selection, impacts from the manufacturing process itself and downstream impacts that stem from the use and disposal of the product.
Several U.S. States have EPR laws around hard-to-dispose of products like batteries, mattresses and medicine. The concept has been newly applied to plastics, as awareness increases that much of the plastic that is placed in blue recycling bins end up either in landfills, or strewn along beaches and waterways.
Much of the difficulty stems from a decision by China in 2018 to no longer accept recyclable material from the United States, known as the National Sword policy. China recycled most of America’s plastics up to that point and many states were left scrambling to find a destination for their piles of plastic.
Oregon was one of the states hit the hardest by the transition, prompting lawmakers to explore EPR policies as one possible solution to attend to rising costs.
Both Oregon and Maine are considering changes to packaging requirements that would disallow producers using certain symbols, like the chasing arrows recycling symbol, unless they are compliant with EPR principles.
Here at Littorary, we applaud both Oregon and Maine, as well as other countries and jurisdictions that have decided to hold corporate producers responsible for the ecological effects of their product. We can contribute to reducing the harms caused by plastics by using our material science background to invent reusable products that will minimize or replace plastics.
Our solution to plastic pollution starts with product design, which we use to create compelling alternatives to single-use products, particularly as it relates to hot or chilled beverages like coffee and tea. A reusable non-plastic product can help salve the environmental wounds created by the overproduction of wasteful single-use products.
Littorary is committed to making durable and sophisticated products that rival the convenience of plastics without the environmental burden. We believe technology and design innovations can revolutionize how Americans and the world consume products in concert with the health of the environment. Please stay tuned to our website, blog, and upcoming Kickstarter page as we unveil a product fully capable of providing the convenience and sustainability that will consign the concept of disposable plastics to the garbage heap of history.