Jimmy Brown, the kitchen supervisor at DiMillo’s, throws food waste into a compost bin in the kitchen at DiMillo’s on January 5. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Maine Senate voted 20-12 in favor of the food scraps disposal ban on Tuesday, moving the state one step closer to becoming the final New England state to require commercial and industrial-scale food waste producers to donate their edible leftovers and recycle what remains.

“This bill will divert food waste from landfills within the state of Maine,” said Sen. Stacy Brenner, D-Scarborough, the Senate chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee that worked the bill. “Currently 40% of municipal waste in the state is food waste.”

The House approved L.D. 1009, a bill introduced by Rep. Stanley Zeigler, D-Montville, 75-64 last month.

Although approved by both chambers, the bill has not yet been funded. It would require about $550,000 to $600,000 a year to pay the staff needed to regulate and monitor a food waste disposal program. It is up to the appropriations committee to decide whether to fund the bill.

Environmental groups applauded the bill’s quick and relatively painless legislative endorsement, noting its importance to the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Food scraps play a central role in the production of methane, which is 80 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

“Methane pollution is over 80 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide in driving the climate crisis,” Conservation Law Foundation attorney Nora Bosworth said. “The main culprit of this pollution is decomposing food scraps in landfills. It’s time for Maine to catch up with the rest of New England.”


In 2022, almost 60,000 tons of food waste was sent to rot in Maine landfills, according to national models, producing more than 2,000 tons of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Surplus food disposal was the environmental equivalent of driving 30,000 gas-powered cars for a year.

“Waste has been an issue from the very beginning, and this is a way to mitigate it, starting now,” Zeigler told the environment committee last month. “I get tired of not doing anything. We have a chance to do something here, to move forward. Let’s do it.”

The bill would gradually ban the landfilling or burning of food waste. It would require commercial and industrial producers to donate edible leftovers to food rescue groups, such as food banks, transfer them to farmers for use as animal feed or fertilizer, or take them to an organics recycler.

The ban would be implemented in 2026 and initially apply only to waste producers making at least 2 tons of waste a week located within 25 miles of an organics recycler. Eventually, in 2028, the ban would expand to include 1-ton producers within 25 miles of an organics recycler.

The initial bill would have given the state Department of Environmental Protection the power to expand the ban to residential households, as Vermont has done, but opposition prompted Ziegler to drop the residential component to improve the bill’s chances at passage before the full House and Senate.


Maine is the only New England state that does not have a food waste law on the books.

Republicans, restaurants and hotel trade groups, hospitals, grocers and even the state Department of Environmental Protection want to keep it that way – at least for now. They say the proposal would be costly for the state and for producers, especially in a state with only a few recyclers.

But Brenner told fellow senators on Tuesday that other states that have adopted food scraps bans have fueled the expansion of a thriving organics recycling industry. They have also increased the amount of food donated to feed hungry residents, she said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations have each set goals to cut household food waste in half by 2030 to slash methane emissions, which they say is the only way the world can achieve the temperature limits set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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