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Study: New State-Run Recycling Program Could Cost Mainers $134 Million a Year

Monday, June 7, 2021 by Amy Downing

Retail, Legislative, Main Street Fairness, Small Business, environment, Politics

Family of four could pay more than $50 a month more for groceries


June 7, 2021-- A new study released last week estimates that a bill being considered by the Maine Legislature could increase the cost of consumer products by between $99 million and $134 million a year, leading to a potential cost increase for a family of four of between $32 per month and $59 per month.

The study, conducted by Dr. Calvin Lakan at York University in Toronto, examined the implications of LD 1541, which would create the first extended producer responsibility (EPR) law or packaging materials in the United States.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Grocers & Producers Association and the Retail Association of Maine will hold a press conference on LD 1541 at 10 a.m., Tuesday, June 8, between the State House and the Cross Office Building.

“This study clearly shows that if LD 1541 were to pass, it would increase the direct cost of living for Maine families. As a member of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Taskforce, I can say unequivocally that now is not the time to increase these costs on Maine families and businesses,” said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

There is no evidence that the bill in its current form will improve the recycling system, reduce local taxes or decrease the amount of packaging material sent to landfills.

“Shoppers are facing the highest increase in pricing for consumer goods that they’ve seen in the last nine years. Establishing an EPR program for packaging is a policy of great magnitude and complexity, and it is imperative that it is not expedited through the legislative process at the risk of significant financial impact on Maine families,” said Christine Cummings executive director of the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association. “Maine's economy is not large enough to single-handedly redefine the packaging market nor recycling markets. This policy simply shifts millions of dollars via a hidden tax on consumer products and neglects to create long-term solutions for a circular economy. Prices at the grocery store are already going up and this will drive them even higher.” 

Under LD 1541, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection would be responsible for managing the new EPR program and assessing fees to product producers. The study bases its cost conclusions on the volume of such packaging materials in the state and the presumption that producers would pass the costs of the new state-mandated fees onto consumers.

“Maine retailers, small and large, would be required to police all the products sold in Maine as being compliant or non-compliant,” said Curtis Picard, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Maine. “Every product would need to register their UPC code with the state before it could be sold in Maine. Maintaining a list of tens of millions of products is completely unworkable and impractical.”

A poll conducted by the Campaign for Recycling and the Environment, an industry-backed nonprofit organization that supports a modernized recycling system and investment in improved recycling infrastructure, found that by a more than two-to-one margin (64%-31%) voters oppose a state-run recycling program that would increase their costs. The proposal was widely unpopular with Republicans (86%-11%) and independents (63%-31%), while Democrats (48%-49%) were evenly split on the idea.

Even among those willing to pay more, only 11% said they would support paying $31-$40 more a month, only 8% said they would be willing to pay between $41-$50 more per month, and only 5% said they’d be willing to pay $50 or more a month.

Forty-one percent of voters said that they were unwilling to pay any additional costs for a new state-run recycling program.

The poll also found that Mainers are split on the question of whether or not the state’s recycling system “needs significant improvement” or is working “pretty well as it is.” Forty-seven percent say that it needs improvement, while 43 percent say it’s working pretty well.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of 500 registered Mainer voters on May 24-25. The poll included responses from 250 landlines and 250 cell phones, and has a margin of error of ±4.38%.



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