Product Stewardship and Special Waste Disposal

Product Stewardship in Maine

Product stewardship is the act of minimizing the health and environmental impacts of a product and its packaging throughout its life cycle. The product stewardship policy approach – called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) – requires by law that product manufacturers share in the responsibility of safe collection and recycling or disposal of their products and packaging. Maine has one of the most comprehensive sets of product stewardship laws in the nation.[1]

The products in this list, if disposed of incorrectly, have adverse effects on both the environment and human health. To learn more about the hazardous nature of these products or the regulations in place to minimize their impact, click on their name.

Mercury-Containing Thermostats

In 2006, Maine established a mercury thermostat collection law. This incentive-based program has resulted in one of the highest mercury thermostat collection rates in the country. The law also makes it illegal to sell mercury-containing thermostats in the state of Maine.

How to earn your $5.00: Just bring your old mercury thermostat to your local participating hardware store for an in-store $5.00 credit, or to an HVAC wholesaler to receive a receipt to be followed by a check in the mail for $5.00 for each mercury thermostat you turn in for recycling.

To find collection sites near you, enter your zip code into the search box on the Thermostat Recycling Corporation’s Maine Program website. This will give you a list of locations and their distance from you.

Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs

Fluorescent light bulbs, including long-tube and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL’s) have small amounts of mercury sealed inside the bulb therefore, it is important to keep them intact. In 2009, Maine passed a law that requires manufacturers of mercury-containing light bulbs to operate and fund a collection and recycling system for used bulbs. The law also requires lamp manufacturers to publicize and educate Maine people about lamp recycling. However, a 2009 University of Southern Maine study indicates that lack of knowledge is likely the primary factor in low recycling participation.

How to dispose of your lightbulbs: The State of Maine has more than 240 collection locations – some available at no cost to residents, others with a small fee. Find collection sites near you, use the Help ME recycle map or check with your town’s waste collection site.

Beverage Containers

Since 1978, Maine’s Returnable Beverage Container Law or “Bottle Bill,” has been extremely successful in reducing waste and litter. Many municipalities in Maine rely on the bottle redemption program to help them manage their municipal solid waste, and hundreds of Mainers have built their lives and businesses around the existing bottle redemption law.

How it works: Consumers pay a refundable deposit on beverages at the stores, and then reclaim their deposits when they bring their bottles and cans back to a redemption center. In the meantime, stores give all of those deposits to the bottling companies who then reimburse the redemption centers for the  deposits paid to consumers—plus a 3-4 cent handling fee per bottle.  That “handling fee” is both how redemption centers make money and how the bottling companies pay for the program.

How to get your $0.05, $0.10, or $0.15 cents! Bring your beverage containers that have the ME 5 cent deposit label on them to your local grocery store or any redemption center.

Architectural Paint

Maine is one of eight states in the nation to a have an industry-run paint collection and recycling program, called PaintCare. This program prevents more than 200,000 cans of unused paint from being improperly disposed of in landfills and incinerators each year. Millions of dollars are saved for Maine municipalities who no longer have the sole responsibility of managing all of the unused paint.

How it works: A fee is placed on each can of paint at the point of sale. Fees are based on the size of the paint can and range from $0 to $1.60. All Maine residents can drop off unused paint, for free, at a participating drop-off location (primarily paint retailers) regardless of whether the paint was purchased before the program went into effect on October 1, 2015. Click here for details on what products are accepted.

How to recycle your paint: Maine has over 80 locations to drop off unused paint. Find a location near to you here.

Electronic Waste (e-waste)

In January 2006, Maine’s Electronic Recycling Law went into effect. The law ensures that the consumer, municipalities, and manufacturers all share in the responsibility of making sure that e-waste is properly recycled to reclaim all useable materials and prevent the release of toxics to the environment. E-waste includes televisions, computers, computer components, DVD players, electrical cords, etc.

How to recycle your electronics: To find the nearest electronic waste collection location, use the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s map. Retailers such as Best Buy, Goodwill, and Staples also recycle certain electronics for free.

Cell phones

On January 1, 2008, Maine’s cell phone recycling law went into effect.  Any person, firm or corporation that sells a cellular telephone at retail in Maine must accept used cell phones for recycling at no charge to the customer. Anyone that sells cell phones at retail must also post a notice, in a prominent location clearly visible to the public, that says in bold “We accept used cellular telephones at no charge.”

On an annual basis, cellular telephone service providers must report to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection the number of cell phones collected and how they were disposed of, reused or recycled.

How to recycle your cell phone: Bring your used cell phone to any cellular telephone retailer free of charge.


ecomaine accepts household quantities of disposable single-use batteries mixed in with normal trash, however Maine law requires manufacturers to establish a collection system for rechargeable batteries. The Call2Recycle program fulfills this requirement. Types of rechargeable batteries (Ni-Cd, lithium, metal hydride), include those from power tools in laptops, tablets and other portable electronic products. The program also accepts cell phones and small sealed lead acid batteries. Call2Recycle has collection boxes at more than 600 retail and municipal locations in Maine.

How to recycle your rechargeable batteries: To find a location near you, type in your zip code at the Call2Recycle website. For detailed information on battery disposal, click here.

Plastic Bags and Plastic Film

Municipal recycling programs usually do not accept thin, flexible plastics such as plastic bags and plastic film because the material can clog up the gears of machinery used to sort recyclable items. However, plastic bags and film are recyclable, and drop-off recycling bins are located throughout the state.

How to recycle your plastic bags and film: By law, retailers in Maine that use plastic bags and plastic bag products must provide a receptacle to recycle plastic bags within 20 feet of the main entrance. Enter your zip code here to find your nearest drop-off location.

What types of bags can be recycled through locations?

  • Plastic grocery and retail bags
  • Bread bags
  • Mattress bags
  • Furniture wrap
  • Case over-wrap (found on diapers, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Newspaper sleeves
  • Ice bags
  • Pellet bags
  • Zip lock bags
  • Produce bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Salt bags
  • Cereal bags
  • Stretch film/pallet wrap

Additional Product Stewardship Programs in Maine

Mercury-Containing Autoswitches

Motor Vehicle Recycling

Oil Recycling

Propane Tanks

Other Special Waste Disposal

Fireworks Disposal Safety

Click here for instructions provided by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Home Medical Waste Disposal

For ecomaine Communities

Sharps (e.g. needles), bandages, prescriptions and other medical waste in small quantities from your home, may be disposed by including it with your residential trash. It is necessary to your safety, and to others in your household, and to those handling the trash that these items be securely contained before discarding.  For more info, see our pamphlet on sharps disposal and the info below.

Both ecomaine and the law require the following disposal steps:

  • Sharps – how to handle Choose a rigid, leak-proof, puncture-resistant container, such as a detergent bottle with a screw-on or tightly secured lid. Store the container near where sharps are generated, out of the reach of children. Label the container with: “Do NOT Recycle.” To dispose, screw lid on tightly and secure with tape to prevent accidental opening and include contained sharps with your regular household trash (NOT recycling).
  • Sharps – Don’ts
    • Don’t use glass, milk jugs, milk cartons, or clear plastic containers (they may break, be punctured or taken for illicit use).
    • Don’t put sharp objects in a container to be recycled or returned to a store.
  • Medications & Prescription Drugs Residential prescription drug disposal may be done in free mailer envelopes sponsored by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which are available at participating Maine pharmacies; click here for more information and a list of pharmacies. As an alternative, residents of municipalities using ecomaine for trash disposal may discard medications and prescription drugs in their household trash because our waste-to-energy plant destroys trash at 2,000 degrees (F). As a precaution, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency recommends first mixing prescription drugs with kitty litter or coffee grounds to prevent removal and misuse.
  • Other home medical waste Soiled bandages, disposable sheets, and medical gloves should be placed in securely fastened plastic bags before you put them in with your other household trash. For more information, contact:
    • Maine Department of Environmental Protection
    • Biomedical Waste Program, 207-287-2651
    • American Diabetes Association, or 207-774-7717
    • Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-800-311-3435.

Household Hazardous Waste Disposal

Most town or city Transfer Stations accept e-waste, tires, propane tanks, smoke detectors, waste oil, and other common household waste, in some cases for a small fee. We encourage you to consult with your local Transfer Station about the services available in your town or city.

Shredded Paper 

To keep shredded paper from blowing away from your recycling bin or at our facility, it should be disposed of in a clear plastic bag such as a dry cleaning bag. This is the only instance in which plastic bags are accepted at ecomaine. 

[1] Natural Resources Council of Maine. (n.d.). Product stewardship. Retrieved from:

Bottle Bill photo credit: Bangor Daily News

Architectural Paint photo credit: PaintCare