Governor Janet Mills has signed legislation that makes Maine the first state in the nation to require companies to help pay the costs of recycling packaging waste that they create.

The new law establishes the program known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging, which will shift the cost of dealing with packaging waste from Maine taxpayers to corporations. Over 40 jurisdictions around the world, including several Canadian provinces have implemented similar programs, boosting their recycling rates well above 50%.

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by State Representative Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) and co-sponsored by State Senator Rick Bennett (R-Oxford), gained the support of several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Conservation Voters and  Environment Maine.

"This new law assures every Maine community that help with recycling and lowering the property tax burden is on the way,” Grohoski said. “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.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection estimates that it costs Maine municipalities over $16 million each year to manage packaging waste, including plastic and cardboard, through recycling or disposal.

Maine’s new EPR  packaging law was specifically crafted to protect local businesses, according to a press release from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Small businesses are exempt, as well as nonprofits and small farmers of perishable food.

Multinational corporations – such as Amazon, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, and Kraft – already comply with EPR for Packaging programs elsewhere in the world – including across much of Canada and Europe.

Ten other states are considering enacting similar laws this year.

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