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Breaking New Ground on Plastic Pollution Reduction in Lincoln and Sudbury

15 May 2021 Update: After a year's delay due to the COVID pandemic, the Lincoln Town Meeting voted today to approve all 3 articles, including the article to authorize the Board of Selectmen to petition the State Legislature to establish a minimum bag charge in Town to properly incentivize reusable bags!! As is the case with the similar measure from Sudbury, the Bag Charge Home Rule petition must be taken up and passed by the state legislature in order to come into force.

12 September 2020 Update: We are excited that all three of these articles passed by well more than a majority at the rescheduled Sudbury MA Town Meeting on 12 September 2020. The chapter is now working closely with local officials and elected representatives to advocate for the Bag Charge Home Rule Petition, which must be passed by the state legislature to take effect.

Meanwhile, due to the COVID pandemic and to limit potential exposures to attendees, the Town of Lincoln chose to restrict 2020 Town Meeting business to only essential, legally-required topics. The Chapter and local allies are monitoring the situation and exploring the possibility of resubmitting these articles for consideration at Lincoln's 2021 Town Meeting in Spring 2021.

The Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter is working closely with local activists in the towns of Lincoln and Sudbury to reduce plastic pollution and to promote a shift to reusing items whenever possible. Along with partners including Sustainable Sudbury, Mothers Out Front Lincoln, and the Lincoln-Sudbury High School Environmental Club, the Chapter has developed and is advancing a slate of strong measures to be considered by town voters during their respective Spring 2020 Annual Town Meetings.

The three measures being considered in each town are:

The warrant articles on checkout bag charges demonstrate an exciting new legal approach by which towns in Massachusetts can now enact this critical policy tool for incentivizing bag reuse, and give both businesses and consumers the opportunity to save money on bags. Previously, only cities in the Commonwealth have been allowed to successfully implement bag charges under state law. By petitioning the state legislature in this way, Lincoln and Sudbury residents can clearly voice their desire to have the best-known checkout bag policy, and to put the towns on a path to significantly strengthening their existing bag laws.

Additionally, the Polystyrene Reduction Bylaws and the Disposable Plastic Pollution Reduction Bylaws would be among the strongest yet adopted in Massachusetts.

These articles have been designed to include policies that research and data have shown are the most likely to produce significant, lasting benefits for the environment, residents, and businesses, while also reflecting a desire to minimize the risk of unintended consequences and ease the transition for all stakeholders.

Beyond campaigning for these policies to be passed in Sudbury and Lincoln, the MA Chapter plans to publicly share details of these campaigns to serve as a resource and inspiration for the many plastic and other pollution reduction efforts underway in Massachusetts and beyond. These include work to advance strong statewide laws in MA on bags and other items, grassroots plastic pollution reduction initiatives across New England, and building support for federal action like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

For more details about the proposed Sudbury and Lincoln policies, you can find the full language for each warrant article as submitted for the Sudbury Annual Town Meeting by citizens' petition on 31 January 2020. The analogous warrant articles in Lincoln advance substantially similar policies, but contain some town-specific differences in language.

Extensive outreach efforts on these proposed articles are now underway in advance of the Lincoln Annual Town Meeting, which starts 28 March 2020, and the Sudbury Annual Town Meeting, which starts on 4 May 2020.

For more information on these campaigns, to find out how you can help, or to learn about how you can start a similar campaign in your own community, please contact the MA Chapter Campaigns Coordinator.