In early July 2018, a statewide ban on the distribution of thin-film plastic checkout bags was passed by the MA Senate as Amendment 102 in its version of the Environmental Bond Bill (H.4613). This amendment has the same language as H.4234 An Act Reducing Plastic Pollution, for which the chapter has been campaigning over the past year-and-a-half.
The bag ban is NOT in the House version of H.4613, so whether or not the ban stays in play now depends entirely on a six-person conference committee tasked with resolving the differences between the two versions. The members of the committee are:
- Sen. William Brownsberger (2nd Suffolk and Middlesex)
- Sen. Anne Gobi (Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex
- Seb. Donald Humason (2nd Hampden and Hampshire)
- Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (4th Berkshire)
- Rep. Donald Berthiaume (17th Middlesex)
- Rep. David Nangle (5th Worcester)
If the bag ban survives the conference committee, it must then pass up-or-down votes in both houses BEFORE the legislative session ends on 31 July 2018.
The current bill has many strong points. It would 1) ban the distribution of all film plastic checkout bags, regardless of thickness, 2) apply to virtually all retail establishments and restaurants across the state, 3) create a strong definition for reusable bags, and 4) permit municipalities to continue environmental innovation by passing stronger regulations after the state law comes into effect.
However, the current language does not mandate a minimum charge for recycled paper and reusable bags. The research shows that a modest bag charge is an essential tool for incentivizing consumer behavior shifts from single-use to reuse, and would also help defray the costs incurred by retailers during the shift away from plastic. Massachusetts would be the second state in the nation to ban plastic bags, and it is critical that we set the best possible precedent. Our chapter would fully support this bill if it is amended to include a minimum charge for paper and reusable bags.
How can you help?
- Contact the Conference Committee ASAP before 31 July 2018, asking them to support keeping the plastic bag law in H.4613 AND to call for inclusion of a minimum bag charge. When writing, it is often useful to include your full name and address to verify your relationship to Massachusetts.
Note: If you’re having trouble with the link, you can just copy and paste the following list of e-mail addresses into your favorite mail program:
Donald.Humason@MASenate.gov, Anne.Gobi@masenate.gov, William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov, David.Nangle@mahouse.gov, Donald.Berthiaume@mahouse.gov, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can use our quick and easy ACTION ALERT!
- Contact your Own Representative: After looking up your state representative, reach out and ask them what they can do to make sure H.4613 passes with the amended bag law included before the end of this legislative session.
- Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local MA publication, to help inform your community about this excellent opportunity and urge others to call upon their state electeds to champion this legislation (H. 4613) with an amendment calling for a fee on paper bags. Not sure how to write or submit a letter to the editor? Give us a shout, we can help!
- Come join our MA Chapter’s monthly meeting to help shape what we do with this and other campaigns. We meet at 6:30 pm on the first Wednesday of every month in the Eastern Bank Community Room, 250 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144 in Davis Square.
We’re getting so close! If you have any questions, please let us know how we can help!