AUGUSTA – A bill in the Maine State House could impact your shopping trips if it becomes law.
It’s aimed to encourage the use of reusable bags by banning single-use plastic bags – something more than 20 towns and cities in Maine already do.
In addition to banning plastic, the bill would have certain businesses charge a minimum of five cents for each paper bag, to help them pay for the higher cost of paper over plastic.
Some legislators spoke in support of the bill at a press conference Wednesday, including a representative from Ellsworth who spoke of plastic pollution in Hancock County.
“We have waterways everywhere in the state that are being affected by this,” said Democrat Rep. Nicole Grohoski. “It’s not going to solve the problem, but to have that daily reminder when you go into the store that there is another way, and that you can take responsibility.”
At the bill’s public hearing Wednesday, some lawmakers said while it’s well intended, they’re against banning plastic bags.
“PERC, a waste energy producer in my district, burns them,” said Rep. Dick Campbell, a Republican from Orrington of plastic bags. “The fact that it’s filling up landfills really is somewhat of a myth.”
The bill’s sponsors said they worked with the Retail Association of Maine on this. The group has members from small retailers to Reny’s, and wants a statewide ban to improve consistency for chains.
“Topsham, Brunswick, Freeport, and Bath all have ordinances. All four are different. So if you’re Reny’s and you have a location in Topsham and Bath, you’re complying with two different ordinances,” said Curtis Picard, the president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine.
Other groups, like the American Forest and Paper Association, submitted testimony in opposition to the bill because of the five cent charge for paper bags.
Some lawmakers expressed concern over charging people as an incentive to bring reusable bags.
“The concern I have the most for are those less fortunate,” said Rep. Campbell. “There are people who come to the end of the checkout counter and they have to put food back because they don’t have the money.”
The bill would have certain exemptions, allowing plastic for dry cleaning and newspaper bags. If it moves forward through the legislature, the ban would take effect in 2020.