The Democratic-led Maine Legislature has endorsed a first-in-the-nation bill that would shift some recycling and waste disposal costs from local taxpayers to producers of hard-to-recycle packaging materials. The bill, from Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, is backed by environmental interests and the cities and towns that would draw from a new fund to bolster recycling programs, but business groups argue that it will increase the costs of essential goods, including groceries.

It is one of the landmark bills of the 2021 legislative session and has been the subject of heavy lobbying. The administration of Gov. Janet Mills signed off on changes to the bill, including a temporary exemption for businesses under $5 million in annual revenue, but she has since indicated concerns about how the bill handles disposal costs.

The Senate passed the bill in a 23-12 vote on Thursday after it cleared the House 84-59 on Wednesday night. But the upper chamber also passed a Republican-led change that would require lawmakers to approve the rules before the program gets off the ground. It faces further action in both chambers before going to the governor. “Currently, the cost of disposing of packaging trash is socialized among taxpayers,” Grohoski said on the House floor. “It’s time to course correct and make the cost-causers pay for the management of waste.”

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Author: Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News
Image: Bill Trotter, Bangor Daily News