Maine Will Pay Companies For Recycling. Here’s How It Works.


In Maine, packaging products under the law account for 40 percent of the waste stream.

A key benefit of the program in both states is that it makes recycling more uniform across the state. Recycling today is a patchwork business, with differences between cities on what can be thrown in the recycling bin.

These programs range from manufacturer-run and manufacturer-controlled to government-run. In Maine, the government takes the lead, with the final say on how the program is run, including setting wages. In Oregon, the producer responsibility organization is expected to involve producers to a greater extent, including an advisory council.

In another key difference, Maine requires manufacturers to cover 100 percent of their municipalities’ recycling costs. In turn, Oregon will require manufacturers to cover about 28 percent of recycling costs and municipalities continue to cover the rest.

Included in both laws is an incentive for companies to reconsider the design and materials used in their packaging. A number of popular consumer products, such as disposable coffee cups, are difficult to recycle – they are made from a paper base, but have a plastic lining inside and possibly a cardboard sleeve as well as another plastic lid.

Both Maine and Oregon are considering charging higher fees for packaging that is difficult to recycle and therefore does not have a recycling market or products containing certain toxic chemicals. like PFAS.

For many companies, this may require a change in mindset.

Scott Cassel, founder of the Product Stewardship Institute and former director of waste policy in Massachusetts, described the impact of a dairy company’s decision to switch from a clear plastic milk bottle to an opaque white bottle. Opaque bottles cost more to recycle, so the transition cost the government more money. “The choice of your containers is really important,” said Mr. Cassel. “The manufacturer of this product had their own reasons, but they didn’t consider the cost of the material to the recycling market.”


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