It’s time to make recycling work for taxpayers, not corporations.

Did you know that nearly 40% of our waste stream is made up of disposable packaging materials? These items are designed to be used for a short time and then discarded. Did you know that many Maine towns have had to shutter their recycling facilities due to changes in the global recycling market? Combining these two issues has made a mountain of waste!

We are in the midst of a global plastic pollution crisis. Our reliance on single-use plastic and packaged goods has created a catastrophe for waste management facilities, recycling efforts across the world and oceans and marine life as well. The weakening of recycling programs across Maine and the world has captured the attention of consumers who want to dispose of their waste properly – Mainers who rely on their municipalities to offer the recycling services that taxpayers fund. It is dismaying to watch recycling centers across Maine reduce the waste they will accept or close their doors altogether, leaving their townspeople holding the bag – literally.

As a Maine business focused on waste reduction, we hear firsthand every day from Maine residents who are frustrated by overly packaged products. At GoGo Refill, we believe low-waste options should be available to all. Because we want to be part of the solution, we helped Maine consumers prevent the need of over 40,000 disposable plastic packages in our first year and a half in business.

Consumers are told to reduce their waste – and we strive every day to help them do that – but it simply cannot and should not be only the responsibility of the consumer. We must hold large brands accountable for the waste they create.

And now there’s a way. It’s called Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging, and we know it works because there are examples of it all over the world. EPR for Packaging simply mandates that the producer be responsible for the packaging they create after being purchased and/or used. There are producer responsibility programs in action all over the world, even in Maine.

Right now, the state Legislature is considering whether to adopt EPR for Packaging waste in Maine. Here’s how it would work: Brand owners who sell products in Maine will be required to share the cost of managing the waste created with their packaging. But here’s the cool part: They will pay less if their packaging is easily recyclable or if they use less packaging, creating an incentive for brands to design with the end of the life cycle in mind.

EPR for Packaging is already underway in many countries, including six provinces in Canada, meaning that many of the larger brands are already participating in similar programs, just not here. And the research shows that these programs produce recycling rates double what we see here in Maine. There also proves to be no increased cost of the products for consumers.

That is why we support recycling reform. We need to raise the bar so that more businesses, the big out-of-state corporations in particular, do their part like we as Maine consumers and businesses are doing. Recycling reform raises the standards on packaging so that big corporations have an incentive to be part of the solution. Maine’s residents and small business owners don’t want to be the only ones working to solve this problem, and we need recycling reform to level the playing field and make waste management more fair.

It’s time to make recycling work for the taxpayers, not for the corporations. Please join us in supporting recycling reform for Maine by urging your legislators to vote in favor of LD 1541.

Laura Marston of Cape Elizabeth is the owner of GoGo Refill in South Portland, a plastic-free refill shop that helps people reduce household waste. 

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