The Maine Department of the Environment (DEP) plans to propose a long-awaited rule later this year aimed at eliminating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging. The proposed rulemaking was announced to state lawmakers by a DEP representative at a legislative hearing in late April, which also included discussions on a slew of recent proposals to amend Maine’s landmark 2021 law to ban PFAS in most other consumer products.
In 2019, Maine’s Toxic Chemicals in Food Packaging Act, in addition to banning phthalates in food packaging by 2022, authorized DEP to pursue a similar ban for PFAS. Before adopting such a ban, the law requires DEP to evaluate the cost and availability of PFAS-free food packaging substitutes. The Department has made several attempts to collect information on PFAS-free substitutes in recent years, but, according to DEP, has not as yet received meaningful industry input. The planned rulemaking will build off a 2022 Washington state report on PFAS-free packaging substitutes and seek formal public comment on the feasibility of a ban.
The announcement comes several months after DEP changed course on whether manufacturers and distributors of PFAS-containing food packaging were subject to the 2021 law requiring reporting on PFAS-containing products by January 1 of this year. Originally, the Department planned to include food packaging within the reporting requirement, but in December decided that the 2019 law provided an exemption.
Meanwhile, DEP is taking comment until May 19 on a proposed rule to clarify implementation of the 2021 law’s reporting requirements. A final rule is expected this summer. Maine is the first state to adopt a broad program to report on uses of PFAS in products and other states are watching closely (e.g., California, where the governor recently vetoed a reporting program as premature, and Minnesota, which is set to adopt a program similar to Maine).
In addition, the Maine legislature is considering five different bills that would amend the 2021 law. These bills would redefine the types of PFAS covered by the law, exempt businesses of 10 employees or less, and extend by up to one year the reporting deadlines for manufacturers and users of PFAS. Further coverage of these bills is available here.