After nearly 160 local laws covering nearly 70% of MA residents, it's the right time for statewide action to cut unnecessary pollution from disposable plastic checkout bags.
Please help us pass these bills by contacting your legislators today and asking them to sponsor H.784 and S.477 'An Act Relative to Plastic Bag Reduction'.
Read on for more details about this bill and more ways you can help!
What are these bills about?
S.477 and H.784 are two nearly nearly identical Senate and House bills filed by lead sponsors Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Mindy Domb at the start of the 2023-4 legislative session. These bills combine elements from the strongest local laws passed about bags in Massachusetts, including:
- A ban on most film plastic checkout bags
- A minimum charge on all new checkout bags to incentivize bag reuse
- Strong, updated definitions to reduce loophole
- Mechanisms to help fund the distribution of reusable bags to those in need
What's the history on this in MA?
Reducing unnecessary waste from plastic bags has been on people's minds in Massachusetts for quite some time!
Nantucket, MA passed one of the first laws in the world restricting plastic bags back in 1990. And while residents in at least 157 MA cities and towns have since enacted local laws to curb their usage, there is still no unifying state law on this topic. This means that MA residents and businesses have to deal with a confusing patchwork of laws AND that the maximum environmental benefits have not yet been realized.
There has been a state plastic bill filed on Beacon Hill in every session since 2011. Nevertheless, as of today, it has been left to the municipalities to act on protecting the environment that we all share.
With so much momentum and energy at the local level, Surfrider MA believe NOW is the time for the state to act.
Why is reducing waste from disposable bags important?
Before Massachusetts started taking action, roughly 2 billion thin-film plastic checkout bags would be used and thrown out in Massachusetts annually. This is equivalent to nearly 250 bags for every foot of our state's 1500+ mile coastline each and every year.
Many of us are keenly aware of the direct environmental benefits of reducing pollution and marine debris from disposable plastic items. These range from preventing direct harm to wildlife, reducing stress on critical ecosystems, and reducing the risk of contamination to the human food supply. However, these bills also acknowledge that:
Plastic bags are a business issue. Plastic litter is a blight that hurts key industries like coastal recreation and tourism that contribute billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to the Massachusetts economy. A state law would also help retailers by creating a uniform statewide standard to resolve today's patchwork of 157+ different local laws.
Plastic bags are a fiscal responsibility issue. In a world of every increasing costs for recycling and waste disposal, plastic bags are especially problematic and costly for municipal budgets because they can clog storm drains and recycling machinery.
Plastic bags are a climate issue. Plastic is mostly made from fossil fuels and many common reusable bags embody much lower lifecycle emissions than their disposable counterparts. The tens of millions of barrels of oil equivalents and millions of tons of CO2 equivalents spent on disposable plastic items is a heavy price to pay for momentary convenience.
Plastic bags are a justice and public health issue. Low income communities and communities of color disproportionately breathe the air and drink the water affected by incineration and landfilling of unnecessary disposable waste.
How can I take action?
Please call or email your State Senator and State Representative and ask them to co-sponsor An Act relative to plastic bag reduction (H.784/S.477).
You can use your address to find the contact information for your own legislators by using the state's Find My Legislator tool.
If you'd like a bit of help on what to say, we've also created a script that you can use for inspiration when you call or email. (Do note that the details of this script are for a different Surfrider MA campaign to expand recreational coastal access for all!)
Finally, please try to reuse your bags whenever you can! Widely share what you've learned about this issue using your own networks. Share this info and ask friends and neighbors to reach out also.
If you have any questions about these bills or want to join this campaign, please contact us!