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Bills Would Repeal Maine's Plastic-Bag Ban

Jae C. Hong
Associated Press file
In this Thursday, May 24, 2012 file photo, plastic bags can be seen through the window of a restaurant in Los Angeles.

Two years ago, Maine became one of the first states in the country to ban single-use plastic bags. Considered a victory for the environment, the law was supposed to take effect Jan. 1, but was delayed until July 1 because of the pandemic. Now, some lawmakers want to repeal it.

Members of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee are considering three bills that would repeal the 2019 law. One is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Stacey Guerin, who suggested that reusable bags pose a potential health risk because they can spread viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19.

“Almost immediately it was determined that reusable bags should no longer be used when grocery shopping. It is well documented that these bags are not properly disinfected,” she says.

Environmental advocates, who were out in force, say that’s not true — that there is no evidence that reusable bags spread coronavirus. But, they say, there is plenty of evidence to show that plastic bags are a major source of pollution, clogging landfills, contaminating soil and water and harming wildlife.

“Single-use plastic bags are unrecyclable and they pollute and threaten public health at every step of their life cycle. The 129th Legislature voted to adopt LD 152 to better protect the environment by banning these harmful products,” says Peter Blair with the Conservation Law Foundation.

The committee has yet to vote on any of the bills.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.