Massachusetts groups push for statewide plastic bag ban to unify local regulations

Massachusetts groups push for statewide plastic bag ban to unify local regulations

Currently, nearly 140 Massachusetts towns have some form of regulations banning or restricting the use of single-use plastic bags.

February 5, 2021

Nearly 140 Massachusetts cities and towns have enacted legislation banning or restricting single-use plastic bags, according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG). The result is a patchwork set of regulations governing the state, the Gloucester Daily Times reports.

To help unify regulations and eliminate confusion across the state, legislators, environmental groups and industry associations are advocating for a statewide policy on the use of these bags.

"There're so many different local restrictions now, and that makes it difficult for the industry, especially multi-store or multi-state operators," Brian Houghton, senior vice president for governmental affairs and communications for the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents supermarkets and other food retailers, says. "It's really getting to a tipping point."

Massachusetts Rep. Lori Ehrlich has filed a proposed law that would allow retailers such as convenience store and supermarket operators to charge a 10-cent fee for reusable paper bags in lieu of their single-use plastic counterparts.

The Massachusetts cities of Boston and Cambridge already have such regulations in place, where retailers can charge 5 and 10 cents, respectively, for the use of paper bags.

While Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker suspended local plastic bag bans and prohibited the use of reusable bags last year due to COVID-related health concerns, those limits were rescinded in July 2020 after it was determined that surface transmission of COVID-19 wasn’t a significant threat.

Although calls for statewide single-use plastic bag bans have fallen flat in past years, state environmental groups are calling on a renewed push for action to help cut down on waste.

"There is too much waste—in our neighborhoods, our parks, our playgrounds and our environment," says Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG. "The pandemic has only made the situation worse, so we need to take action now."