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Bags remain at center of battle against plastic in Massachusetts



By Sophie Hauck

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 17, 2023…..Time’s up for single-use plastics. Or at least that remains the hope of representatives from ten environmental organizations who gathered this week on Beacon Hill to promote bills that would ban the distribution of plastic shopping bags at retail stores statewide.

Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Mindy Domb stood with advocates outside the State House Wednesday and said the state should follow the lead of many of cities and towns where single-use plastic bag bans or limitations have already been put into effect.

“The fact that we haven’t done it has allowed 156 towns to take the lead,” Domb said. “We have to level the playing field across the state and have every town sort of be the same so that — stores and customers and municipalities — no one’s put at a disadvantage.”

Supporters of the legislation imagined a future where Massachusetts leads the country in plastic waste reduction.

“The Commonwealth is behind where it should and can be when it comes to reducing plastics,” said Lydia Churchill of Environmental Massachusetts. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our environment and threaten our wildlife for hundreds of years.”

The Joint Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources heard more than 40 bills Wednesday afternoon designed to limit single-use plastic consumption.

If passed, the bills (S 477/ H 784) backed by Rausch and Domb would prohibit retail stores from distributing single-use plastic bags to shoppers except when handling prescription medication, perishable grocery items or delicate clothing.

The bills encourage shoppers to use their own reusable shopping bags, but stores could sell recycled paper bags to customers for ten cents. Stores would remit five cents from each paper bag purchase to the state, and all revenue would fund environmental projects in the municipality where the bag was purchased.

Should the state ban single-use plastic bags, establishing a unified standard in place of the 156 separate policies now in place would be important, according to Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. The standard should include a reworked fee per bag, he said.

“Paper bags cost significantly more per unit to produce, purchase and ship into the Commonwealth, meaning the cost for retailers and our customers significantly increases,” Rennie said. “The split fee option adds an unnecessary and complicated compliance, audit and remittal burden to the retailer.”

Relying on reusable bags can be a counterintuitive approach to sustainability, according to Zachary Taylor, director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance.

“Proposed bag regulations override the majority of local rules to ban reusable, recyclable American-made plastic bags in favor of higher-cost, imported alternatives,” Taylor said, noting reusable bags “are still made from plastic, cannot be recycled, and have larger environmental impacts.”

Mara Shulman of the Conservation Law Foundation countered Taylor, saying that reusable bags beat recyclable alternatives when it comes to sustainability.

“The fact is that single-use plastics oftentimes are not created to be recycled, and so we cannot rely on our recycling infrastructure to solve this problem entirely,” Shulman said. “There’s very powerful interests that make money on the tonnage of waste that a city or town delivers to them … They don’t want to see a reduction in the amount of waste we create because that would be a dip in their profits.”

Environmental advocates repeated arguments for banning plastic bags that they used in previous legislative sessions, saying single-use plastic continues to burden the climate, economy and public health.

Elementary school students Nina Hirschberg and Bailey Millay testified in defense of the paper bag alternative, celebrating how paper is biodegradable, safe for animals and requires less energy to produce than plastic.

Neither Domb nor Rausch could say for certain whether they believed the bill would emerge for floor votes in the House or Senate.

Rausch urged supporters of the bills to continue putting pressure on their elected officials in hopes of expediting a potential vote.

“Please don’t think that, just because I am convinced, that we will be able to be successful,” she told bill supporters outside of the State House.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. HuntersCrackPipe

    June 18, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    Massachusetts is filled with experts, posing as politicians looking to rescue us from the monsters within. We are basically screwed because a majority of MA. residents are mindless vessels. When the NWO finally has it’s way your living standards will be sub-3rd world. Good enough, you’ll get what you’re willing to accept. Got any CRACK?

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