Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, (right) watches the Bangor/Brewer Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11, 2014 alongside her parents, Jackie and Edward Grohoski. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

Editor’s note: Despite backing the latest version of packaging bill at a committee hearing in May, Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim said on Friday, June 11, that the state has stopped short of supporting it. An original reference to the department’s support is retained in this story.

When Maine consumers buy something from companies large and small, they must often pay to dispose of all the cardboard and plastic that it’s packaged in. But businesses could soon shoulder more of those costs under a bill moving through the Legislature.

It’s become expensive for Maine communities to recycle their household trash, and as a result, they’re sending more of it to the landfill. But Maine could soon be the first state in the nation to try a different approach.

Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, has sponsored a bill that would make companies pay a fee when they sell packaged products in Maine. Those funds would then be paid out to communities to help them recycle.

Grohoski said the program would incentivize companies to use less bulky or toxic packing materials, and she thinks it would be particularly helpful for rural communities which must often pay to ship their trash long distances.

“We know that most municipalities want to offer recycling programs, if they don’t, or to improve them, and we know that people want to recycle, and it’s a matter of creating a system that people can use that doesn’t cost them money out of municipal budgets,” Grohoski said.

Some companies have opposed the bill. They argue it would push up prices.

But on Monday, the Legislature’s natural resources committee voted 8-3 to recommend an amended version of Grohoski’s bill, and it voted against a similar bill from Sen. James Dill of Old Town that had more protections for industry.

The head of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection also spoke in favor of Grohoski’s bill. She says that it has exemptions for small businesses that are appealing to Gov. Janet Mills.

This story appears through a partnership with Maine Public.