As the 2019-2020 Massachusetts legislative session gets underway, the Surfrider Foundation MA Chapter helped lead an effort to sign up state legislators as co-sponsors for An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution (Docket Numbers HD.134 and SD.896). This bill – filed by Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Sen. Jamie Eldridge – sets a strong definition for reusable bags, contains a mandatory bag charge to incentivize reuse, and applies to almost all retailers, making it one of the strongest and most comprehensive measures to reduce plastic bag pollution yet proposed in the Commonwealth.

Over a roughly two-week period, 98 legislators signed up to co-sponsor either the identical House or Senate versions of this bill! This includes 80 of 160 state representatives and 18 of 40 state senators.

To put these numbers into context, HD.134 was the 33rd most sponsored bill this session out of more than 6,000 bills filed! We also nearly tripled the total co-sponsor count of 34 on analogous bills from the previous legislative session. Many thanks to our awesome friends at fastdemocracy.com for helping with this analysis!

The co-sponsorship window for the House bill HD.134 closed on February 1, 2019. However, additional legislators can still co-sponsor the Senate version SD.896 until the bill’s hearing date. For this reason, with your help, these counts can still increase!

We are thrilled by this level of legislative support because it truly reflects and grows from the incredible grassroots energy and activity in MA to reduce single-use plastic pollution. As of this writing, ninety-two local bag laws (and counting!) have been passed in MA, covering more than 42% of state residents. The map below shows the overlap between local bag laws and the state House districts whose representative has co-sponsored An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution.

The ninety-two cities and towns in Massachusetts with local plastic bag laws as of February 12, 2019 are shown in blue. The red hashed overlay shows MA House of Representatives districts where the representative has co-sponsored An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution (HD.134/SD.896) in the 2019-2020 legislative session.

Every local law passed, and every ongoing effort, has been started and carried forwards by people hoping to make a positive difference in their own community. The Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter wanted to activate these local leaders to engage with our campaign by asking for their help signing up co-sponsors for the statewide plastic bag bill.

With this strategy in mind, chapter volunteers crafted and executed a plan to spread a simple, concrete, and time-bound request to known plastic reduction supporters across the state:

Please ask your own state representative to co-sponsor An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution (Docket Numbers HD.134 and SD.896) before the co-sponsor deadline on February 1st.

The chapter developed and freely shared tools like phone scripts and sample e-mails to help anyone who wanted some guidance in how to contact their legislators. During the push, we also worked diligently to track, visualize, and share our collective progress as a way to inform and motivate the broader community.

While we are very proud of helping to organize the groundwork for this effort, we recognize our friends, allies, and supporters across the state as the ones who mostly did the hard work of calling, writing, and persuading. In some cases, passionate local leaders gathered truly impressive bands of like-minded neighbors to build the local, critical masses of support needed to convince reluctant representatives that it was time to take a stand against plastic pollution and sign on to this bill. We sincerely thank everyone who played a part in making this significant milestone a reality!

Of our many partners on this statewide campaign, the Mass Green Network founded by Brad Verter merits a special mention for its role in making this effort possible. Years ago, Brad recognized the synergy and cooperation that can arise from joining the passion and expertise of activists in individual towns into a coalition reaching across Massachusetts and beyond.  For our Surfrider chapter, being able to plug into and energize this network has been instrumental in allowing us to facilitate this co-sponsor push, as well as our continuing mission to support the spread of ocean-friendly public policies.

Looking ahead, it is worth remembering that the legislative process in Massachusetts is notoriously long and complicated. Even with this many co-sponsors, there are still many hurdles to overcome and eventual passage of An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution is not certain. Everybody who cares about this issue needs to keep up the activity level, whether this means continuing to pass strong local legislation, spreading the word with friends and neighbors, or directly pressuring our legislative leadership to take action.

Despite the work ahead, it’s important for our Chapter and the broader plastic pollution mitigation community to take time to celebrate each milestone along the way. It was tremendously exciting to see the co-sponsor count climbing and we’ve got a feeling that this is what momentum looks like! We intend to keep the noise level up and to keep the ball rolling on reducing single-use plastics and protecting the ocean here in Massachusetts. Are you with us?


You can help the Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter fight plastic pollution and protect the ocean here in Massachusetts! We would love it for you to join the campaign and offer what you can. If you want to find out more, please get in touch with our Campaigns Coordinator or come attend our monthly chapter meetings in Davis Square Somerville on the first and second Wednesday of each month!