- Maine officials are debating over a proposed solid waste bill that would add hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to promote composting and recycling. Supporters see a need for the bill as Maine fell short of its 50% recycling and composting goal set for 2014 by 14%, according to the Portland Press Herald.
- Opponents said the fees would tax businesses, especially "large-quantity commercial food generators" who would be required to compost beginning Jan. 1, 2020 if they are within 20 miles of a composting facility. The food industry is particularly against this move, while the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the state’s composters support it.
- Primary bill components include requiring food manufacturers and institutions to send food waste to a composting facility if it exceeds a ton each week; adjusting landfill and incineration fees; and attaching a 5-cent refundable bottle deposit stipulation to containers of Maine-produced apple cider and blueberry juice.
The driving issue behind this debate is that Maine fell significantly short of a diversion goal targeted for over a year ago. In 2014, Maine residents generated nearly 1.2 million tons of municipal solid waste and another 1.5 billion tons from other sources, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
But getting closer to the missed goal — the same goal that lawmakers recommend resetting for 2021 —will mean big change and investment. Maine began working toward recycling legislation in 2015 for the first time in years.
Republican bill sponsor Sen. Tom Saviello said, "I ask everybody to recognize what is working as we talk about this, what is not working, and what we can do to do better," as reported in the Portland Press Herald.
However the composting bill drew heated debates on either side, particularly with regard to mandating food generators to compost.
"It does not make sense to us to add administrative costs and impose fees on businesses already doing the right thing," said Shelley Doak, on behalf of the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, as reported in the Portland Press Herald.
A proposed $1 per ton surcharge to landfill, recycle, or incinerate triggered debate too. The Maine Municipal Association said the fee, which would replace a $2 per ton landfilling surcharge would cost municipalities $500,000 a year as there was no incineration fee before. The organization’s entire policy committee also objects to the bill. Maine’s DEP has not taken a position, though worked with Saviello on the bill’s language and suggested ways to improve implementation.