the following is a press release from Senate President Karen E. Spilka’s office submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill today that would implement a statewide ban on all carry-out plastic bags at checkout from retail stores.
The bill requires 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.
“While Massachusetts may not be able to tackle the proliferation of plastics worldwide, we can take concrete action at home,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Implementing a statewide ban on plastic bags, and encouraging the use of reusable bags, is an important first step. I’d like to thank Senator Jamie Eldridge for his tireless advocacy on this issue, Senator Michael Rodrigues for his work on the bill that we passed today, and my Senate colleagues for having a sense of urgency on this matter.”
“As the lead Senate sponsor of the plastic bag ban since I first arrived in the Senate in 2009, I am proud to join my senator colleagues in passing one of the strongest plastic bag bans in the country,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “I’m grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka, and
Senate Ways and Means Chair, Michael J. Rodrigues, for their hard work on this bill. I’m extremely pleased that the Senate has passed legislation that will address the negative impacts of single-use plastic bags on our environment.”
“This bill is the result of working together with the retail and environmental community to reduce plastic bag waste and address a major source of pollution in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka and Senator Eldridge for their leadership on this issue as we consider meaningful ways to protect our environment and reduce significant impacts on local governments.”
To provide consistency for retailers across the state, the bill would preempt existing plastic bag bans already implemented in cities and towns.
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 allows small retail shops, which use a small number of carry-out bags, additional time to comply with the fee requirement. It also allows 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. Only a small amount of the billions of plastic bags used in the US 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. 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, Massachusetts, for example, which has had a 10 cent fee on paper bags in place for over three years, they have seen a 50 to 80% reduction in single-use bags taken out at stores.