Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, said Wednesday that businesses prefer one statewide policy on plastic bags to the patchwork of local rules.
In this Feb. 12, 2019, file photo, a plastic shopping bag sits stuck in a thorny bush by the side of Route 1 in Ellsworth as a car drives past. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

State lawmakers have rejected a bill that sought to repeal Maine’s law banning single-use plastic bags in many retail stores.

Supporters of the proposal, LD 425, portrayed reusable bags as unsanitary and bad for the environment because of the resources needed to produce them. They also said during a public hearing last month that requiring retailers to charge 5 cents for reusable and paper bags hurts low-income Mainers.

But supporters of the law — which took effect in July 2021 after several delays — said it is helping to reduce plastic bag litter that ends up in trees, clogs culverts and wastewater treatment plant machinery and chokes wildlife. In addition to environmental groups, business organizations such as the Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association opposed the bill to repeal a law that they helped craft in 2019 at a time when businesses were having to navigate dozens of local bag ordinances.

That was a point that Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, made Wednesday when he said that businesses prefer one statewide policy to the patchwork of local rules.

“Let’s leave this law in place,” Bennett said. “Let it work and get some consistency to our retailers and the people of Maine.”

The Senate voted 24-9 against repealing the law roughly one week after House members voted 80-64 against the bill.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.