Last week, with little fanfare, L.D. 248 was enacted into law, increasing the handling fee associated with Maine’s container deposit legislation.

Conceived in 1976, this “bottle bill” aimed to reduce litter. Bottle bills quickly became a model for other extended producer responsibility programs: environmental protection efforts that hold the manufacturer responsible for their product’s entire life cycle.

Under extended producer responsibility, the manufacturer can delegate responsibility to a third party to provide used-product management. The handling fee is the manufacturer’s payment to redemption centers for providing this recycling and consumer deposit return service. Redemption centers don’t make money from the deposits, or get any other consumer fee.

Since the introduction of our bottle bill, Maine has catapulted to leadership ranks – with a container recycling rate just under 90 percent – not coincidentally among the highest in the country. This is perfectly aligned with the recycling goals of our big and small beverage manufacturers.

The mission statements of most of our beloved microbreweries cite sustainable practices, and the big players have made big commitments, too. Pepsi’s website shares: “(Pepsi is) striving to use more recycled PET in our bottles … But here’s the challenge; today, due to low recycling rates and limited processing capacity there simply isn’t enough high-quality, food-packaging-grade rPET on the market.” Well, Maine is doing our part.

With a long history of pride in our natural resources, and a savvy understanding of recycling, Mainers should celebrate this system. So, the next time you pop open a bottle of your favorite soda, or kick back with a can of seltzer or locally brewed beer, take a moment to appreciate Maine’s redemption and recycling ecosystem. We – you, me, the retailers, the beverage manufacturers and the redemption centers – are all integral contributors in Maine’s relentless commitment to sustainability. Worthy of cheers, indeed.

Alison Vanderhoof

Portland


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