Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is delaying enforcement of a scheduled ban on single-use plastic bags and disposable polystyrene takeout containers until July 1, 2021.

A statewide ban on single-use plastic carry-out bags had been delayed once already, in April, and was scheduled to go into effect January 15. The polystyrene foam disposable food service container ban had been scheduled to go into effect January 1.

The department cited the practical and logistical effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted traditional food marketing and packaging supplies. Demand for groceries, “curbside pickup,” and takeout food has increased, as has the demand for paper bags and thicker reusable plastic bags — both substitutes allowed under the bag law. Additionally, many retailers have asked customers not to bring reusable bags from home to avoid transmitting the virus on contaminated bags.

The pandemic has caused a similar disruption with alternatives to polystyrene foam disposable food service containers that fall under the ban. COVID-19 safety protocols have led to greater caution with handling of food and beverages and increased demand for disposable food service ware. Schools, homeless shelters, and other groups are providing more food in disposable packaging than before the pandemic.

DEP says the delay in enforcement is not intended to downplay the importance of eliminating single-use plastic carry-out bags and polystyrene foam disposable food service containers from the waste stream, but rather to address current concerns related to impacts of the pandemic. DEP is encouraging businesses and groups currently using disposable bags and containers to plan for the change by procuring alternatives and using up current stocks of these products before the July 1 enforcement date.

For more information visit maine.gov/dep, or contact David Madore, acting deputy commissioner, at david.madore@maine.gov.