December 23 2019

Sen. Cindy Friedman Supports Statewide Ban on Carry-Out Plastic Bags


The State of Massachusetts could soon be free of one-use plastic bags. 


Senator Cindy F. Friedman recently joined her Senate colleagues in voting on legislation that would implement a statewide ban on all carry-out plastic bags at checkout from retail stores, a release from her office states.  


The bill would require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for a recycled paper bag at check out, and directs that five cents of the amount collected from the sale of paper bags go back to the city or town for enforcement of the ban, as well as for other municipal recycling efforts. The retailer may keep the remainder of the fee to recoup the costs of providing paper bags.  


“We must take action to reduce waste in our communities and protect our environment, and this statewide plastic bag ban is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Senator Friedman. “I want to acknowledge Senate President Spilka, Senator Rodrigues and Senator Eldridge for their work on this initiative and for ensuring that we continue to prioritize addressing environmental concerns this session.” 


Burlington already has a plastic bag ban but, if approved and signed into law, this bill would replace the local law. 


“To provide consistency for retailers across the state, the bill would preempt existing plastic bag bans already implemented in cities and towns,” the release states. 


In addition, the ban would continue to allow for plastic bags for specific products where plastic serves an enhanced purpose, such as for produce, poultry or other food items to keep them fresh, or for frozen items or items prone to leak, for example.


To address concerns about cost, the bill would allow small retail shops, which use a small number of carry-out bags, additional time to comply with the fee requirement. It would also allow persons paying for their purchase with an EBT card to acquire their recycled carry-out paper bag for no fee.


“Single use plastic bags are particularly detrimental to the environment,” the release argues. “Only a small amount of the billions of plastic bags used in the United States are recycled, as they contaminate curbside single stream recycling systems. Those that are recycled are not turned into new plastic bags, meaning new plastic must be produced to create new bags.” 


“Because plastic bags are abundant and unlikely to be recycled, they end up as litter,” the release continues. “In the ocean, whales, sea turtles, and birds become seriously injured or die when they mistake plastic bags for food. In landfills or when incinerated, plastic bags release contaminants into the ground or air, further damaging the environment.”


Over 100 Massachusetts cities and towns have already passed local laws banning plastic, as have Maine, Vermont, New York City, Washington DC, Hawaii, California, Connecticut and Delaware. Of those jurisdictions, California, Connecticut and Vermont all charge 10 cents for a disposable bag, while Oregon, Maine and DC and NYC all charge five cents. Fees on paper bags have proven to be an important tool for reducing disposable bag usage. In Cambridge, for example, which has had a 10 cent fee on paper bags in place for over three years, there has been a 50 to 80% reduction in single-use bags taken out at stores.


The bill is now before the House of Representatives for further consideration.


Web Design by Polar Design