Ashton Day throws food waste into a compost bin near the dish washing stations at DiMillo’s. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Maine House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill Wednesday that would keep commercial food waste out of the trash by requiring some large producers to donate their edible leftovers and recycle the scraps.

The House voted 76-64 to adopt LD 1009, a bill introduced by Rep. Stanley Zeigler Jr., D-Montville. The bill, which was endorsed in January by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“The bill has the ability to help reach the state goal of reducing solid waste below a half-ton per capita,” said Zeigler. “Unfortunately, right now, a lot of our waste is food.”

Maine long ago developed a solid waste policy: reduce when possible, then reuse, recycle, or compost, and, as a last resort, incinerate or landfill. By diverting scraps from the waste stream, Zeigler’s bill would save landfill space and reduce municipal tipping fees.

If leftover food is donated, the bill would help tackle Maine’s hunger problem. If it is recycled at one of Maine’s five organic recycling facilities, it would be turned into a gas, non-toxic liquid or compost that could be used to fertilize agricultural fields and help farmers, Zeigler said.

But the bill has a long line of critics – including the Maine Department of Environmental Protection – which argues it is well-intentioned but ahead of its time for a state that does not have the infrastructure to make it a success. Critics say most large-scale food waste producers already recycle what they can.


“This bill, though well intended, creates some burden on both the private sector and the public sector for those who are really trying hard to manage their food waste program,” said Rep. Dick Campbell, R-Orrington. “The infrastructure isn’t there.”

Campbell believes the storage of food waste until it can be hauled to a recycler and the carbon footprint of the transport poses a bigger threat to the Maine environment than the methane gas produced by the landfilling of the organic waste.

Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, lamented the bill’s $500,000 price tag, arguing such funds would be better spent on medical care for Maine’s poor families.

But Rep. Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, said it was a reasonable bill that would protect Maine’s environment without hurting municipalities.

The bill requires Maine to roll out its ban slowly, starting in 2026 with those generating 2 tons of food waste a week within 20 miles of an organics recycler. In 2028, DEP would broaden who must follow the law to include 1-ton food waste producers located within 25 miles of a recycler.

Eventually, Maine could expand the ban to those making as little as 100 pounds of food waste a week. The initial bill would have given DEP the power to expand the ban to residential households, as Vermont has done, but Zeigler scaled it back during committee.


Maine is the only New England state that does not have a food waste law on the books.

Under the terms of the bill, food waste producers would have to donate edible food before they resorted to agricultural use, such as feeding animals, or to recycling, such as composting or anaerobic digestion for the production of fertilizer, biogas or animal bedding.

Dawn Murray throws food waste into a compost bin at DiMillo’s on January 5 Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the United Nations have each set goals to cut household food waste in half by 2030 to slash methane emissions, which they say is the only way the world can achieve the temperature limits set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

In 2022, almost 60,000 tons of food waste was sent to rot in Maine landfills, according to national models, producing more than 2,000 tons of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Surplus food disposal was the environmental equivalent of driving 30,000 gas-powered cars for a year.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.