When Democrats and Republicans agree on a policy, it’s something to celebrate.

This was the case at the end of last year’s legislative session when a proposal to boost Maine’s recycling industry and deal with the problem of plastic waste by reducing the amount of virgin plastic in our beverage bottles won broad support from both sides of the aisle.

As the bill’s sponsor and one of its cosponsors, we were heartened to see that it isn’t just policymakers from both political parties who agree on the approach of L.D. 1467, An Act to Promote a Circular Economy through Increased Post-consumer Recycled Plastic Content in Plastic Beverage Containers. Environmentalists, the Maine Beverage Association and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection worked with us to shape legislation that would take practical but impactful steps toward addressing the critical plastic waste problem.

After passing out of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee with unanimous support, the bill now sits in the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, waiting for modest funding.

We think it should pass, and here’s why.

According to an NBC News report, beverage companies produced 239 billion plastic bottles in 2004, and that total more than doubled by 2017 to 494 billion bottles. If the trend continues, we will see 594 billion bottles by the end of this year – a whopping 1.6 billion plastic bottles manufactured every day.


Most bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, a plastic that is highly recyclable, but the problem is that very little is actually returned for reprocessing or reuse.  One study estimates that of all the plastics produced since the 1950s, just 9 percent were recycled, with the rest either incinerated, dumped in our landfills or left in our woods, waters and oceans, where they accumulate, year after year, rather than decompose.

L.D. 1467 aims to reduce plastic waste and cut greenhouse-gas emissions at the same time by requiring an increasing percentage of recycled content in all plastic beverage bottles sold into Maine. More recycled plastic means a lower amount of fossil hydrocarbons needed to produce virgin plastic.

Clearly this measure makes sense for the environment, but it presents an important opportunity for the Maine economy, too. Properly collecting and recycling PET, rather than sending it to the transfer station, will create jobs and economic value. In the “circular economy” natural resources are used again and again – thereby maximizing their economic and environmental value. The incentive would also rise for collection organizations and entrepreneurs to find better ways to collect more plastic and retain its material value throughout the collection process.

Keep in mind Maine already has one of the highest recycling rates of plastic bottles in the country. While laudable, our state’s recycling prowess addresses only the end-of-life phase of a plastic bottle. The other half of the equation is the production of plastic bottles sold into Maine.

Setting a standard amount of recycled material to be included in plastic bottles would create a level playing field for all companies manufacturing beverages for the state, while helping the industry to increase recycling and reduce our greenhouse-gas footprint. California, Washington state and New Jersey have recently passed similar legislation, viewed as one tool in the fight against plastic waste.

Making this program a reality in Maine requires startup funding for our Department of Environmental Protection – a modest $69,000 compared to the current budget surplus of $822 million. Once underway, the program is estimated to cost about $10,000 annually.

A sincere desire to help our state join the nation and the world in addressing the growing plastic problem has brought together historically opposing groups – Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and Big Business – in agreement on L.D. 1467’s framework for real, actionable steps forward.

We believe that’s something to celebrate – and invest in.

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