Boston, MA– The list is growing of places in Massachusetts that have enacted bans on plastic bags in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Boston enacted its plastic bag ban last December. This week, Springfield became the most recent city in the state to approve a plastic bag ban (still pending the mayor’s approval).
Plastic bags are not easily recycled, and they often end up in the ocean where they’re eaten by marine animals. Whales and others often mistake plastic for food and are washing up on beaches with pounds and pounds of plastic inside their bellies. They starve to death because they cannot eat if their stomach is full of plastic. National Geographic reported in March on a curvier beaked whale in the Philippines that had 88 pounds of plastic in its belly.
In Massachusetts, over 90 municipalities have already passed their own bans on plastic bags, replacing them with paper bags (often for a charge) and encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags. Some municipalities, rather than enforcing a full ban on plastic bags, require stores to charge $.05 or $.10 cents for plastic bags, in order to discourage their use.
Not all cities are thrilled with the experiment. Tewksbury is reportedly considering rolling back its plastic bag ban which has been in place for only three weeks, with opponents saying that it won’t help with litter and it presents a burden on elderly shoppers. However, it may not matter what individual cities or towns decide in the end, because...
The ban on plastic bags could eventually be statewide. The idea has been shot down before, but the proposal is back on the table. On April 2, the Massachusetts State Senate held a public hearing by the Environment, Natural Resources and Agricultural Committee on the proposal to ban one-use plastic bags across the state. If the bill is passed, stores would be banned from providing customers with single-use plastic bags after August 1, 2019, and would require a $.10 charge for recycled paper bags.
The current bill has conditional support from the Massachusetts Food Association (representing supermarkets and other food stores). In a statement to the committee, the organization said that the ban on plastic bags would help ease the confusion of differing rules from town to town. However, they did ask that more time than the August deadline so that grocery stores and other retailers can educate customers and comply with the new rule.
The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D) of Marblehead and State Senator James Eldridge (D) of Middlesex and Worcester districts. So far, only California and Hawaii have statewide bans on plastic bags.
Senator Eldridge said: “I just find more and more people saying this is a no-brainer ... this should have been done a long time ago.”