Gov. Paul LePage has allowed a new paint recycling law to be enacted without his signature, making Maine the seventh state to approve an industry-sponsored collection and recycling program for household paint.
The law was written and backed by the paint industry, sponsored by the ranking Republican on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee – Sen. Thomas Saviello of Wilton – and supported by environmental organizations, municipal governments and many small hardware and paint stores. Even so, the LePage administration opposed it, citing the cost to consumers.
Supporters say the law will encourage proper disposal of paint and reduce costs to taxpayers and society, as manufacturers will be able to reuse much of the material, which now is disposed of as hazardous waste.
“When I sit at our transfer station on hazardous-waste pickup day, 90 percent of what is there is household paint,” said Saviello, adding that it costs about $5 a gallon to dispose of that way. “The paint industry will come and create a nonprofit to oversee this and, in a roundabout way, we will be saving towns money.”
The program, modeled on programs in Oregon and California, is the result of a decade-long national effort involving manufacturers, environmentalists, retailers, recyclers, and state and federal regulators. It effectively shifts the cost of disposal from municipal taxpayers to people who actually buy the paint.
Manufacturers pay a fee to PaintCare — the industry’s nonprofit recycling entity — for each gallon of paint they sell in a given state. The fee is ultimately passed on to the consumer.
The fees for Maine have yet to be determined, but the head of PaintCare, Marjaneh Zarrehparvar, told legislators in early May that they would likely be similar to those in Oregon: 75 cents per gallon or $1.60 per five-gallon container.
Saviello said the fees will likely be reduced over time as the program becomes more established.
PaintCare has agreed to accept all latex and oil paints that are now in Mainers’ basements, garages and sheds, even though no deposit was ever paid on them. The program is expected to be implemented in 2015, with dozens of retailers expected to volunteer to serve as collection points because it will encourage customers to visit their stores.
“You can bring all that unused paint in your house to the retail store or a participating transfer station and it will get turned into recycled paint and resold, and the paint cans will be recycled,” said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which supported the bill. “This is going to get unwanted waste out of our waste stream and into the system for recycling.”
The bill was opposed by the Retail Association of Maine, which said “the largest retail sellers of paint” were “concerned about a tax being assessed on this popular, affordable product.”
It was also opposed by the LePage administration, which originally sought to eliminate all so-called product stewardship programs, in which manufacturers are responsible for collecting and recycling their products.
A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found that Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho fought against many of Maine’s product stewardship laws in her previous job as a corporate lobbyist.
An official from the Department of Environmental Protection, Melanie Loyzim, testified to legislators that the paint recycling bill would “create an entirely new regulatory program” that would increase consumers’ costs without “guaranteeing” that all paint collected would be recycled.
Loyzim said the new per-gallon fee would undermine public support for an existing lead paint abatement program, which is funded by a separate 25-cent-per-gallon fee.
On Friday, Loyzim said the DEP still has concerns about the program but hopes it will prove successful.
“We certainly hope that all those benefits of the program come to fruition,” she said. “It will remain to be seen, with Maine’s population being spread out over so many rural areas, how effectively some of those areas will be served.”
She said the DEP will be engaged in ensuring that collection sites are set up correctly and that oil-based paints and other hazardous substances are handled and transported safely. She said it remains to be seen how much staff time and department resources the program will require.
The law received strong bipartisan support from the Legislature, passing 97-45 in the House and 28-7 in the Senate. LePage could have vetoed the bill, but instead allowed it to become law without his signature Saturday evening.
His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
“We look forward to building on our experiences in Oregon and California to launch a program in Maine that not only works for the paint industry, but also meets the public’s need for convenience, efficiency, and cost effectiveness,” said Alison Keane, vice president of the paint industry’s American Coatings Association, in a prepared statement.
Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at: