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Maine rejects proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags

By: Gayle S. Putrich

June 7, 2013

Members of the Maine Statehouse have plastics on the brain.

The House rejected a bill May 30 that would have required shoppers to pay 5 cents for plastic shopping bags. Just days earlier, the House voted unanimously in favor of banning bisphenol A from infant formula cans and baby-food jar lids.

Rep. Paul McGowan, D-York, wrote both pieces of legislation.

In an effort to gather more support for his proposed statewide bag ban — so far no state has managed to enact a ban — McGowan argued that the thin-film bags pose a major threat to wildlife and marine animals. The bill would have given 2 cents to the merchant and sent the other 3 cents into a state fund aimed at projects to reduce plastic waste. Opponents said it would harm low-income families.

In April, the Bangor Daily News reported that Maine's largest recycling company, ecomaine of Portland, grosses about $5 per ton for recycled plastic bags and frequently has trouble finding customers for the material.

The bag tax was rejected 79-63.

State senators in Maine still get a crack at the bag measure, but a similar proposal did not make it out of a senate committee in 2009 and approval is not expected.

The state of Maine banned BPA from children's sippy cups in 2012.