13 July 2020 Update: The Baker Administration listened to us on reusable bags! The state ban on reusable bags was lifted on 10 July 2020 and updated safety regulations for retail stores allowing reusable bags once more were issued shortly thereafter. The lifting of these orders also allows at least 139 cities and towns to get back to enforcing local bag laws.
We're grateful to everyone who took our Action Alert, and to our friends at MassPIRG, the Mass Green Network, Girl Scout Troop 68277, and everyone else who helped make the case that it was time to lift the reusable bag ban.
The Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter has submitted detailed written comments on the State's reopening plan to Governor Baker, the Reopening Advisory Board, and several other key members of the Baker Administration. These comments were submitted on 5 June 2020, in advance of the transition to Phase 2 of reopening.
With full respect for the great deal of diligent and thoughtful work that has been put in to protect MA residents, workers, and businesses during the ongoing CoViD-19 pandemic, the chapter's most recent testimony makes three key recommendations as our state progresses through the phases of reopening:
- Immediately lift the prohibition of reusable shopping bags and the suspension of single-use plastic mitigation laws. MA is one of only three states that have banned reusable shopping bags as part of its coronavirus response. If public health experts deem any bag restrictions to be necessary, we have recommended that the current total ban be immediately replaced with a policy that prohibits employers from requiring that employees place items in customers' reusable bags. This approach has been adopted in Connecticut and simultaneously protects both worker health and the environment.
- Establish and publish final guidelines for allowing and encouraging food service establishments to employ reusable food-service ware and menus. While the pandemic clearly necessitates certain precautions beyond long-established minimum sanitation standards (i.e., physical distancing and face coverings), discouraging or disallowing reusable foodservice items or menus would not be a data-driven decision. Reusable items are designed to be disinfected onsite using existing washing and handling regulations, and can be used with the peace of mind that comes from knowing the last time they were disinfected. Responsibly encouraging reusable consumer items needs to remain a guiding principle throughout the entire reopening process and will be a key component of a safe and sustainable new normal.
- Take immediate steps to improve the transparency of and ease of public engagement with the reopening process. Reopening the Massachusetts economy profoundly affects each and every resident of the Commonwealth and there remain significant opportunities to increase transparency, public engagement, and inclusiveness in this critical process. To this end, the Chapter has made a series of requests, including that full drafts of reopening plans be released with enough time for robust public comment; that advisory boards and working groups include equitable representation for workers, as well as environmental, social, and racial justice voices; and that the Reopening Advisory Board take measures to increase transparency, including holding public meetings, more clearly defining decision-making timelines, and providing e-mail addresses for easy, flexible public comment.
For additional details on and more supporting arguments for these recommendations, we invite you to examine the full text of the MA Chapter's written comments.
We welcome your support for these principles, as well as any questions or comments that you might have! As we continue to navigate together through the Massachusetts reopening process, and as the chapter continues to advocate for a just and sustainable reopening, please don't hesitate to contact us.