Maine Mulls ‘Polluter Pays’ Packaging Fee

June 16, 2021
Pending legislation that would charge companies for disposal costs has made Maine the locus of controversy over packaging waste.

Pending legislation that would charge companies for disposal costs has made Maine the locus of controversy over packaging waste.

The “polluter pays” legislation is due for a vote this week. If it passes, Maine would charge CPG companies a fee to cover the cost of disposing of their packaging.

The principle of making companies pay in advance for packaging disposal costs has been established for decades in Europe and elsewhere, but is still controversial in the United States. Similar legislation has been introduced in a dozen states, but only Maine is close to passing it, according to Politico.

The Maine bill would set up bidding for private groups to put together a comprehensive plan for packaging waste disposal, with input from producers, environmental groups, municipalities and others. After the plan was established, regulators would set per-package fees to impose on producers.

The biggest controversy is over who will control the money, for what purpose. Industry groups like the Consumer Brands Association want to ensure that the money raised for packaging disposal goes mostly for recycling. They argue that CPG companies need access to recyclable packaging to make good on pledges to use recycled content, and that they shouldn’t have to pay for landfilling.

Advocates for the fee respond that if CPG companies choose to use packaging materials that are hard or impossible to recycle, taxpayers shouldn’t be stuck with the cost of landfilling.

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