Maine’s plastic bag ban takes effect July 1, after which most retailers will be barred from bagging customers’ purchases in plastic bags. Customers will either have to bring their own reusable bags, opt for paper bags for which they will pay a mandatory 5-cent fee or go without bags altogether.
The ban on single-use plastic bags was adopted by the Maine Legislature in 2019, in an attempt to lighten the waste stream and cut down on the number of plastic bags stuck in trees and fluttering along roadsides in the state. The law was originally to go into effect in April 2020, but delayed over concerns that reusable bags might carry and spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Then it was supposed to go into effect early this year, but was delayed again after concerns were raised that the supplies of alternatives might have been disrupted by the pandemic. But the July 1, 2021, date is now set in stone, state officials said.
Grocery stores and other retailers have been gearing up for the new law by posting signs alerting shoppers to the change that’s coming in less than two weeks.
The statewide ban will replace local laws that sought to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. About a dozen towns and cities around the state adopted bans or per-bag charges to discourage the use of the bags over the past decade, but advocates of the statewide ban said a more comprehensive approach is needed to make a dent in the amount of plastic waste going to landfills or becoming litter.
Maine’s ban is not all-encompassing. Stores can still provide plastic bags to shoppers buying unpackaged goods, such as produce, deli or bakery items, while they are still in the store, although those retailers will have to provide a drop-off location for plastic bag recycling.
Restaurants and smaller retailers who have only minuscule food sales can waive the nickel-a-bag fee on paper bags, although they still have to eliminate the use of single-use plastic carryout bags.