The Legislature passed a law two years ago to ban the use of those bags, in order to protect the environment and reduce roadside litter, Maine became one of the first states in the country to do this.
That law was supposed to take effect in April 2020, but was delayed until July 1 because of the pandemic and many businesses prohibiting the use of personal reusable bags. The ban was delayed early in the pandemic by Governor Mills because of worries that reusable bags could become contaminated and carry the virus home or into stores.
There have been multiple bills submitted by legislators to repeal this law, claiming reusable bags pose too many health hazards but also arguing the bag ban is too much government control.
Members of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee are considering three bills that would repeal the 2019 law. One is sponsored by Republican state Senator Stacey Guerin, who suggested that reusable bags pose a potential health risk because they can spread viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19.
There were many environmental advocates, who disagree and said that there is no evidence that reusable bags spread coronavirus. But, they say, there is plenty of evidence to show that plastic bags are a major source of pollution, clogging landfills, contaminating soil and water and harming wildlife.
A number of Maine retailers supported banning single-use plastic bags at the time the law passed because there had been so many towns and cities passing local plastic bag bans that it became confusing. The Retail Association of Maine still supports it, and for the same reason.
The committee will discuss the future of this bill in a future work session.