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Maine passes first law in US forcing large companies to pay to recycle their packaging

Maine passes first law in US forcing large companies to pay to recycle their packaging
North-easternmost US state is shifting the cost burden of recycling away from the taxpayer and onto big businesses

Maine has become the first US state to charge companies to dispose of their non-recyclable packaging.

Rather than local communities footing the bill for recycling, the new legislation will provide millions of dollars to Maine towns and cities. The funding will be redirected to recycling operational costs and be used to fund education and infrastructure projects that reduce packaging waste.

The bill was signed on Tuesday by Democrat Rep. Nicole Grohoski. “I’m proud that, once again, Maine is a national leader when it comes to common-sense environmental protections,” she said in a statement.

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

The US used to ship lots of plastic waste across the ocean to China, but many of these imports were banned in 2018.

“We have to face this problem and use our own ingenuity to solve it,” Ms Grohoski said.

Small businesses earning less than $5 million (£3.67 million) in gross annual revenue, plus nonprofit organisations, will be exempt from the charges.

“Maybe companies won’t be inclined to ship you something tiny in a box wrapped in another box, all stuffed with plastic bags, because they’ll have to pay for that, not somebody else. It really puts the responsibility where it belongs,” said Sarah Nichols from the Natural Resources Council of Maine to Boston’s NPR News Station.

Environmentalists have celebrated the move, but business groups including Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, noted that grocery costs could go up as a result of the new programme, reported The Washington Post.

Extended Producer Responsibility is a well-known concept throughout Europe, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, where similar programmes are already running.

California, Hawaii and New York are also looking to implement similar policies. Maine has led the way on environmental legislation since its bottle bill in the 1970s. Maine has also recently outlawed Polystyrene food containers, bowls, plates, cups, trays and cartons, which are notoriously difficult to recycle. These “are a significant contributor to environmental plastics pollution,” said Governor Janet Mills, who signed the foam food container bill.

Maine companies have time to get their packaging costs and procedures in order, the new recycling rules will not be implemented or enforced until 31 December 2023.