In 2019, Maine lawmakers determined to ban sure poisonous chemical compounds in packaging that touches meals, resembling hamburger wrappers, popcorn baggage, pizza packing containers, and paper plates and bowls. Most agreed that corporations may promote different kinds of paper supplies that don’t include so-called chemical compounds without end, to cut back the chance of contaminating the setting and consuming water when packaging is composted or landfilled. landfills.
However three years later, the gross sales ban has not been carried out. That is as a result of the state company in command of implementing the legislation has sought extra data on learn how to do it safely and with out disrupting the market, as legislators have ordered, and the company has confronted difficulties alongside the way in which.
An excessive amount of time has handed, nevertheless, and the state company has made its job extra difficult than crucial, a well being group stated, particularly as state investigators discover increasingly wells contaminated with human-made per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. , or PFAS. , which have been linked to severe well being issues resembling thyroid illness and kidney most cancers.
By the point the ban on PFAS in meals packaging goes into impact — if it does go into impact, as a result of closing guidelines on the topic will want legislative approval — it may make little distinction given different measures to restrict use of the chemical compounds. The delay reveals how it’s one problem to create a legislation and one other to place it into observe.
The truth that persons are nonetheless consuming from paper plates with PFAS on them is “fairly ridiculous,” stated Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of Defend Our Well being, a public well being advocacy group. Maine was the second state to create a legislation to ban PFAS in meals packaging. “Sadly that legislation has not been carried out by DEP,” he stated.
At first, the Maine Division of Environmental Safety didn’t write the mandatory guidelines for the ban to enter impact as a result of it didn’t wish to duplicate the in depth work that was being completed in Washington state. That state was the primary to ban PFAS-laden containers, that are used as a result of they’re immune to grease and water.
Maine legislation prohibits the division from banning the sale of PFAS-containing packaging until it determines that safer alternate options exist, are available at comparable price, and work simply as nicely. The Washington State Division of Ecology was already doing that evaluation.
“They’ve extra assets and are trusted for the thoroughness of their work,” stated Kerri Malinowski Farris, supervisor of the safer chemical compounds program on the Maine division. Washington’s evaluation “was a significant factor in how Maine would transfer ahead.”
Launched final yr, the 200-plus-page Washington report discovered ample alternate options exist. Meals wrappers and liners with PFAS might be changed with wax-coated paper; PFAS-containing meals dishes and jars might be changed with kaolin clay-coated supplies; and pizza packing containers might be constituted of uncoated paper.
As soon as the Maine division discovered that acceptable alternate options existed, it determined to conduct a market evaluation to see if the merchandise have been available in Maine at a comparable price. Options do not should be made within the state, simply bought right here. The division has submitted a request for proposals for an organization to check the problem. It solicited proposals by March 18 and aimed for the market evaluate to be accomplished by July 1.
“We’re a very completely different market than the state of Washington. We needed to ensure we have been complying with our authorized obligation,” Farris stated.
However nobody utilized to do the meals packaging market evaluation.
“It was a shock to us that we did not have a guide supply. It might be unlucky for somebody to criticize considering that we weren’t making an attempt to maneuver this ahead as a result of we have been doing our due diligence on this aspect,” Farris stated.
What’s extra, the legislation would not even require the division to pursue the ban. It merely offers you the choice to.
MacRoy argued that it was “utterly pointless” for the division to conduct a market evaluation, particularly given Washington’s complete evaluate and the truth that world provide chains exist for meals packaging. “If there’s a variety of alternate options in Washington state, they are going to be accessible to order in Maine,” he stated.
As an alternative of going by way of the bidding course of once more, the division will search feedback immediately from these with an curiosity within the matter.
Someday this summer season, the division will start holding conferences to assemble details about the associated fee and availability of safer alternate options in Maine. Contributors will talk about any crucial clarification language in rule making to implement a ban. In the end, the Maine Legislature should approve the drafted guidelines.
“We do not have a particular timeline for rule growth. We have to begin the stakeholder course of first, which is able to assist us develop that language,” Farris stated.
Even when lawmakers approve the Division of Environmental Safety’s guidelines, there’ll possible be extra to attend. Maine legislation says the ban won’t take impact till two years “from the date the division determines that a safer different is accessible.” That timing is unsure, Farris stated.
Neither is the ban all-encompassing. The legislation states that the ban won’t apply to producers which have lower than $1 billion in complete annual home gross sales of meals and beverage merchandise.
It isn’t clear which corporations would fall into that authorized vacuum. Patrick Strauch, govt director of the Maine Forest Merchandise Council, informed lawmakers in 2019 that figuring out who qualifies for the $1 billion exemption could be difficult and “would require authorized interpretations.”
Adjustments are afoot no matter whether or not Maine’s ban on gross sales of PFAS packaging involves fruition. Well being and environmental teams are pushing quick meals corporations and retail chains to voluntarily take away PFAS from their packaging, and a few have stated they may. The US Senate is getting concerned: Final month, a committee accredited a bipartisan modification to ban the usage of PFAS in meals packaging; it nonetheless wants broader approval.
Two massive producers, AGC Chemical substances Americas and Daikin America, say they’re phasing out gross sales of merchandise containing a sure sort of short-chain PFAS, which might persist in people after dietary publicity. Twin Rivers Paper Co. in Madawaska, which makes meals packaging paper, anticipates phasing out PFAS use by the top of March 2023.
And a Maine legislation created final yr will ban folks from promoting any product, not simply meals packaging, that comprises PFAS until the state determines it is an “unavoidable use” by 2030.