Pro-business groups in Maine reiterate their opposition to a bill that would force manufacturers to pay for the disposal and recycling of product packaging, and they cite an Ontario university researcher’s white paper which suggests that the prices consumption would increase in such a plan.
But the methodology and conclusions of the document are criticized by supporters of the measure, and its author admits that there is not enough relevant information available to draw firm conclusions.
“The data available is extraordinarily poor,” said Calvin Lakhan, a waste management researcher at York University in Toronto, in an interview Monday.
The bill, LD 1541, calls for what is called an Extended Producer Responsibility Plan, which would assess the fees of product manufacturers to reduce the public cost of recycling their product packaging.
The Lakhan article claims that the plan envisioned in LD 1541 would increase costs for producers by at least $ 99 million per year, a figure well above the $ 17 million that the Department of Environmental Protection of Maine estimates that packaging disposal costs Maine cities each year.
Lakhan speculates that those costs would be passed on to consumers, increasing a family of four’s monthly grocery bill from $ 32 to nearly $ 60, a figure critics suggest is extremely unrealistic.
The intention of the document, Lakhan said, was to illustrate the issues surrounding extended producer responsibility plans, which he said merit further study. There is no evidence that such plans increase costs for consumers, he wrote, but this is “based on a flawed premise – lack of evidence is not evidence of a result.”
“A lot of people misinterpret what we’re trying to do,” Lakhan said in the interview. “Our goal is not to defend the interests of producers – what we want to do is have a fair and balanced conversation.”
The report is similar to the one produced by York University on a New York packaging bill. After the claims in that document resulted in testimony about the Maine bill, supporters pointed out that it cites virtually no sources, has no transparent methodology or data sources, and does not reflect real examples of producer responsibility programs.
“The bottom line is this: No credible evidence has been provided that LD 1541 would have a measurable impact on the price of packaged products in Maine if LD 1541 becomes law,” said Sarah Nichols and Peter Blair, director. from the Natural Resources Council of Maine Sustainable Maine. , attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, in a May letter to the Co-Chairs of the Legislative Assembly’s Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources.
In a paper responding to criticisms, Lakhan said the data and methodology had not been released because the paper relied on proprietary statistical software and a “patchwork” of studies and data sources to model the impact of the New York bill.
The document was not peer reviewed and did not cite any sources as it was intended to solicit comments and be a living document that would benefit stakeholders providing better data, he wrote.
Maine’s Producer Responsibility Bill would create a system under which product manufacturers would have to pay fees on packaging materials to help reimburse municipalities for recycling and disposal, and to improve infrastructure recycling and education.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Association of Maine, and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association are scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday against the bill, building on material from the white paper by York University. A majority of legislators on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted last month that the bill should pass throughout the legislature.
Maine is one of a number of states considering packaging related bills this year. Dozens of countries and at least five Canadian provinces have producer responsibility laws for packaging.
“There haven’t been a lot of studies on these different proposals yet,” said Curtis Picard, president of the Retail Association of Maine. “I think the study is worth considering as part of the conversation on this bill.”
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