There were three bills so far this legislative session to repeal a 2019 state law banning single-use plastic shopping bags. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard the bills during a public hearing last week and the Committee held their work session on the bills on Wednesday this week when the Committee voted 8-3 to keep the ban in place.
The Legislature had delayed enforcement of the new law as part of a COVID-19 response bill it passed prior to adjourning in March. Implementation of the ban was delayed again in December by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection until July 1.
The law originally was scheduled to take effect on April 22, 2020, but changes in consumer demand caused by the pandemic as well as disruptions in obtaining replacement materials would have made the ban difficult to enforce at that time.
Maine is one of only 10 states with a statewide ban of single-use plastic bags. Prior to the statewide ban, 24 cities and towns, including Portland, had enacted ordinances (as of May 2019) banning single-use bags or requiring stores to charge a fee for them to reduce their use.
Legislators who support the ban said the Legislature had settled on a uniform approach to protecting the environment when it approved the ban in 2019. The law, they said, was in large part a compromise with the state’s largest retailers, who wanted consistent policy statewide instead of confusing Mainers with different local ordinances.
The full Legislature will still vote on the issue again in the weeks ahead, but the 8-3 committee vote to reject a repeal is unlikely to be overturned.