Wednesday April 24th, state director Carissa Maurin gave the following testimony on behalf of Enviornment Maine in support of Representative Holly Stover's bill LD 1532 'An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags' which would prohibit a retail establishment from using single-use carry-out bags to bag products at the point of sale or otherwise make single-use carry-out bags available to customers, with exemptions for certain types and uses of plastic and paper bags. Retail establishments may provide recyclable paper bags to bag products at the point of sale for at least 5¢ per bag, with exceptions to the fee requirement for certain types of retail establishments. The prohibition is effective April 22, 2020.

“Good morning Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and distinguished members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony. My name is Carissa Maurin and I am the State Director at Environment Maine. I am speaking to you today in support of LD 1532 ‘An Act To Eliminate Single-use Plastic Carry-out Bags’.

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, laid end-to-end, they could circle the equator 1,330 times, and here in Maine they are not recyclable. Plastic bags never biodegrade meaning they don't break down completely but instead photo-degrade, becoming microplastics. As they do so, any toxic additives they contain—including flame retardants, antimicrobials and plasticizers—are released into the environment.

Plastic bags are especially harmful to marine animals because they swallow plastic bags thinking they are food and the bags block their digestive tract causing them to starve to death. Just this past March a whale washed up with 88 pds of plastic bags in his stomach and then in April a pregnant whale washed up with 50 pds of plastic in her stomach. A study from Against Waste estimates that plastic debris kills over 100,000 turtles and marine mammals every year. Scientists have found plastic fragments in literally hundreds of species, included nearly half of all seabird and marine mammal species. A 2018 study at the University of Maine even found plastic in the stomachs of our lobsters. Microplastics have been found in shellfish like scallops, oysters, mussels and clams. In 2012 the Shaw Institute (formerly known as The Marine & Environmental Research Institute) collected water samples from Blue Hill and Penobscot Bays and found, on average, seventeen plastic fragments in every liter of seawater.

The plastic bags that now clog our waterways and harm our wildlife only started to appear at grocery checkouts around 1980. Only 40 years of existence and so much damage caused. Plastic bags are one of the most common garbage items on beaches. Plastic bags are also the biggest source of recycling contamination in our community. According to ecomaine’s website plastic bags in recycling cause “clogged equipment, which translates into downtime and lower efficiency. At least once a day, we have to shut down the entire Recycling Facility and send three or four employees armed with box cutters into the sorters to cut loose the plastic bags that have wound around the moving parts.”

It’s time Maine starts putting wildlife over waste and ban plastic bags. We need to recognize that we’ve been treating our rivers, lakes and oceans like a landfill. We need to be reducing our plastic consumption and thinking beyond plastic. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal recently discovered a new chemical process to easily turn discarded lobster shells into biodegradable plastic. Imagine your children and their children inheriting a healthier natural world, one in which most plastic pollution is a thing of the past. That vision is why I urge you to pass LD 1532. Thank you.”