AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine homeowners and contractors would be able to drop off their old and unused paint at retail stores and other specified sites for recycling if a bill reviewed by lawmakers Thursday becomes law.
The proposal seeks to authorize a consumer-financed system to get rid of paint safely rather than having cans pile up in basements and garages, then tossed into landfills or sent to incinerators.
Mainers annually discard about 300,000 gallons of leftover paint, which often contains dangerous chemicals, and most of it ends up in landfills, according to supporters of the recycling bill.
The proposal in Maine is modeled after programs active in Oregon and California and planned in Connecticut this summer and Rhode Island next year, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee was told.
‘‘Success breeds success. People like the program. It’s working,’’ Alison Keane of the American Coatings Association, a nonprofit industry group that wants to start a program in Maine, told lawmakers.
Maine’s recycling program would be run through a national product stewardship effort involving the paint and coatings industry. The American Coatings Association’s PaintCare program works to find more sites for people to take unwanted, leftover paint. Retail stores that sell paint are often glad to sign on as collection sites because it brings in potential customers, Keane told lawmakers. Other drop-off sites could include transfer stations.
Consumers would pay up-front costs for the recycling program when they purchase paints or stains. Those fees now run 35 cents for pints and quarts, 75 cents per gallon and $1.60 for five-gallon buckets, Keane said.
To the surprise of some supporters, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management opposed the bill.
Bureau Director Melanie Loyzim said the proposal includes no new incentives for consumers to recycle and would create a new regulatory framework. She said her agency views the proposed fees as a new tax, on top of the 25 cents-per-gallon of paint Maine consumers already pay for lead poisoning prevention programs.
Curtis Picard of the Retail Association of Maine also said the state shouldn’t rush into the program.
‘‘We are concerned the fee will be a new tax on the consumers of Maine,’’ Picard said, adding that the program ‘‘is still in its infancy’’ and much remains to be learned from other states about how to manage it.
But the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which supports the bill, said the proposed recycling arrangement could replace a current costly practice that doesn’t capture much of the used paint in Maine.
Mainers now pay $2.4 million in local taxes and fees annually to collect used paint for recycling. Still much of the used paint in the state doesn’t get recycled and winds up in landfills or, at worst, is poured down drains, said the council’s Abby King. Older paint can contain lead, which is toxic. Paint also contains resins, solvents, pigments and additives that are also toxic, King said.
Some municipalities have paint drop-off sites, but they must pay to have the paint taken away to be recycled. In the small southern Maine town of Bowdoinham, that cost comes to $3,000 per year, said David Berry of the town’s solid waste management agency, one of the municipal officials who spoke in favor of the bill.
Among other supporters were the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, the Maine Resource Recovery Association, and a homeowner, Karen Fletcher, whose residence in Freeport has drawn its share of paint through the years.
‘‘I have a basement filled with unused paint,’’ Fletcher said.