Post-consumer Recycled Plastic Content in Plastic Beverage Containers

circular economy diagram: a closed loop system beginning with raw materials, then production, then consumption, then material recovery, then recycling, and lastly returning to raw materialsIn 2022, the Maine Legislature passed Public Law Chapter 742 “An Act To Promote a Circular Economy through Increased Post-consumer Recycled Plastic Content in Plastic Beverage Containers.” A circular economy is a model system where production, consumption, and recycling are intertwined together to ensure that materials never become waste but rather are reused thus reducing the environmental impact of human activities. This law works towards a circular economy by setting post-consumer recycled content usage requirements for initiators of deposits (IOD) and spirits manufacturers in the plastic beverage container industry.

The reporting requirements in this law mandate that IODs and spirits manufacturers annually submit a report to Maine DEP detailing the amount of Post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic and overall percentages of plastic usage in beverage containers sold, offered for sale, and distributed in the previous year. It also establishes a waiver process and fee structure within the program to aid the department in measuring and ensuring compliance. Maine is one of just a handful of states that have passed laws requiring the usage of post-consumer recycled content to support the long-term sustainability of Maine’s municipal recycling programs and beverage container redemption programs.

What is Post-Consumer Recycling?

Post-consumer recycling targets collecting and recycling materials that have already been used by consumers and then discarded as waste. These materials are typically products that consumers used and that have served their intended purpose already. Some examples might include plastic water bottles, newspapers, glass jars, or cardboard packaging. After collection of these items, they will be sorted and prepared for processing. This step typically involves cleaning, shredding, or compacting to prepare the materials for reprocessing. Reprocessing occurs and then those recycled materials can be used like raw materials to make new products instead of sourcing virgin materials. This type of recycling “closes the loop” meaning it works towards continuously recycling and reusing the same materials for production and consumption rather than introducing virgin materials each life cycle.

The Benefits of Post-Consumer Recycling

Post-consumer recycling plays a critical role in supporting sustainability initiatives, conserving natural resources, and reducing negative environmental impacts of the consumer market. By collecting and reprocessing materials through recycling, it’s possible to significantly reduce landfill waste. This not only decreases the burden on municipal landfills but also prolongs their expected lifespan. Additionally, post-consumer recycling reduces the need for virgin materials which are both environmentally demanding and energy-intensive to extract, process, and transport for manufacturing. Using recycled materials requires less energy and creates fewer greenhouse gases compared to processing virgin materials.

Additionally, post-consumer recycling programs create a demand and market for recycled materials. This provides opportunities to sustain the current recycling infrastructure as well as drive innovation and growth. Post-consumer recycling programs are beneficial and an essential component of sustainable waste management in Maine.

For questions or more information, please contact Kat Sheeley (207)-592-3910

Timeline Summary for LD 1467

April 1, 2024 - IODs and spirit manufacturers must submit data to the DEP annually regarding PCR plastic content in all plastic beverage containers sold in Maine in the prior calendar year.

February 15, 2025 - The department must annually submit a report to the joint standing committee of the Legislature regarding the requirements of the law as well as recommendations for change to those requirements.

January 1, 2026 - The minimum PCR requirement in plastic beverage containers in Maine moves to 25%.

January 1, 2031 - The minimum PCR requirement in plastic beverage containers in Maine moves to 30%.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does this law do?

This law creates a minimum requirement of Post-Consumer Recycled content that plastic beverage containers must contain starting January 2026. The minimum requirement of 25% will be effective January 1st, 2026, through December 31st, 2030. Then starting January 1st, 2031, the minimum PCR content requirement increases to 30%.

Initiators of Deposit and spirit manufacturers are also required to report PCR and plastic data to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to ensure compliance.

I’m a spirit’s manufacturer or IOD, can I have someone else report my data for me?

An IOD might not have all the information needed to report fully or accurately under this program. In these situations, IODs can request data from their manufacturers to use for the data reporting requirement. Both IODs and spirits manufacturers also have the option to contract with a 3rd party to submit the report on their behalf. In either situation, the IOD or spirits manufacturer is still the responsible party for ensuring compliance with the law.

What products does this law cover?

This law works in close relation to the Bottle Bill program of Maine. This means that the products regulated by the Bottle Bill are the same products regulated by this PCR program. Thus, beer, hard cider, wine coolers, soda, or noncarbonated water beverage containers, and alcoholic or noncarbonated drinks sold in the State are all included under this program.

What products are not covered in this program?

Similar to the Bottle Bill program, the PCR program does not include milk, dairy-derived products, Maine-produced apple cider and blueberry juice, broths or soups, instant drink powders, products designed to be consumed in a frozen state, or liquid syrups, concentrates or extracts.

What size plastic beverage containers are included under this program?

The PCR program utilizes the same size specifications as the Bottle Bill program. Plastic beverage containers ranging from 50 milliliters to 4 Liters are included.

Are there fees associated with this new program?

Starting in January 2026, there will be an annual registration fee required when IODs and spirits manufacturers submit their yearly data. The department will set the amount of the annual registration fee during their rule-making processes. This annual registration fee will not exceed $500 and is designed to offset the costs to the department of administering and overseeing this program.

Additionally, there are non-compliance fees if IODs or spirits manufacturers do not meet the minimum PCR requirements outlined in the Statute. These fee structures and calculation formulas will be clearly defined after rulemaking by the Department. Any fees received by the department pursuant to this program will be deposited in the Maine Environmental Protection Fund.

I’m a very small manufacturer, are there any exemptions for minimum PCR content?

The PCR regulations and minimum content requirements still apply to small manufacturers as well. IODs or spirit manufacturers who sold, offered for sale, or distributed for sale in the State fewer than 10,000 plastic beverage containers or, in total, less than 200 pounds of non-post-consumer recycled plastic are exempt from paying the annual registration fee though. However, they still must adhere to all other requirements of the program, such as data reporting.