(The Center Square) – Environmentalists say single-use plastic bottles and straws fill landfills and clog waterways, polluting the environment and endangering marine life.
In Maine, green groups are pushing to ban both materials as part of national campaigns to cut the amount of plastic debris in the world's oceans.
One proposal, which will be considered by the Legislature's Committee On Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday, would ban the sale of plastic beverage bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.
Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, the bill's primary sponsor, said despite decades of recycling efforts, most plastic bottles end up in landfills or in the oceans.
"The effects of plastic pollution are far-reaching, not only affecting marine and freshwater ecosystems but also presenting public health concerns," Gramlich said in recent testimony on the bill. "The primary risk associated in drinking bottled water for humans is the fact that we are exposed to harmful toxins, known as microplastics."
If approved, Maine would be the first state to enact a ban on the sale of beverage containers made from that specific kind of plastic.
Not surprisingly, the move is opposed by the food and beverage industry, which argues that a ban is unnecessary because plastic bottles are the most widely recycled product.
"Our bottles are made to be remade. They can be used again and again for new bottles or for other products so we can reduce the amount of new plastic used today," Newell Augur, executive director of the Maine Beverage Association, testified recently. "We want every bottle back, and we’re investing significant resources in innovations and recycling systems that keep plastic out of our oceans, rivers and shorelines."
Brennan Georgianni, a lobbyist for the Plastics Industry Association, pointed out that plastic water bottles are a major contributor of the state's bottle deposit system.
"Disallowing this material, which feeds into a successful recycling program that provides for the manufacturing of numerous new products, would be detrimental," he wrote to the committee. "We urgently ask that you reconsider banning this product and focus your efforts on helping other packaging types achieve similar recycling rates."
On Thursday, the environmental committee is also considering a proposal to ban single use plastic straws.
The legislation, filed by Rep. David Miramant, D-Knox, would ban plastic straws and prohibit restaurants and other eateries from offering straws unless a customer requests it.
"The argument that people are used to these wasteful practices is not enough to offset the damage done and we don't have more time to wait," Miramant testified recently.
More than 500 million plastic straws are used daily in the U.S., many of which end up as a threat to marine life in waterways, environmentalists say.
Groups such as the Surfrider Foundation, which supports a global ban on straws, say the actions are needed to curb pollution.
Several major companies, including Starbucks and McDonalds, as well as entertainment venues have vowed to phase out straws.
Maine has banned single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food containers, but the new laws, which were scheduled to go into effect in January, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.