AUGUSTA — Maine has moved one step closer to banning single-use plastic shopping bags.

The Senate voted 24-11 Tuesday in favor of a bill that would impose statewide restrictions following last week’s 91-52 vote in the House.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay Harbor, still requires additional votes in each chamber before it goes to Gov. Janet Mills. If approved, Maine would become just the third state to impose such a ban, behind California and New York.

“Single-use plastics are an enormous pollution problem that cost our towns money and cause serious harm to wildlife,” said Sarah Lakeman of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Maine’s people, along with our towns and local businesses, recognize that plastic pollution poses a serious threat to the environment.”

In addition to a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at retail establishments, the bill would mandate a 5-cent fee on either reusable plastic or paper bags to provide shoppers an incentive to use reusable canvas or cloth bags.

Although plastic bags are technically recyclable, they are not handled by municipal recycling programs and can only be recycled at a small number of locations, usually big chain stores. As such, many end up as litter or in curbside recycling bins. If they make it to recycling sorting equipment, they can jam machines.

Over the past several years, numerous municipalities have imposed plastic bag  bans, including Bar Harbor, Belfast, Brunswick, Freeport, Saco and York. Several other towns, including Portland and South Portland, charge fees for plastic bags.

Last month, Mills signed a bill that prohibits restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, grocery stores and other “covered establishments” from using containers made of polystyrene – known by the trade name Styrofoam – as of Jan. 1, 2021.

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