June 17, 2019: Gov. Janet Mills signs a bill into law banning single-use plastic shopping bags. Maine becomes the fourth state to do so, after California, Hawaii and New York.

The law is scheduled to take effect April 22, 2020, which is Earth Day. However, on March 17, Mills announces the ban won’t start until Jan. 15, 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns about handling reusable bags.

Vermont’s governor signs a bag ban on June 17, and other states are considering bans. When Mills signed the bill, 24 Maine municipalities already had adopted bag bans of their own to reduce the number of bags contaminating the environment.

According to co-sponsor Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, the Retail Association of Maine and the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association requested the law to create a uniform statewide policy on bags.

The law prohibits retailers from distributing the single-use plastic bags at the point of sale. They can offer customers paper bags but must charge at least 5 cents each for them.

The law exempts certain kinds of bags, such as those used for prescription drugs, laundry, newspapers and live animals.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: jowen@mainetoday.com.

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