Comerford: ‘Time has come’ for plastic bag ban


  • State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton.   FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/7/2019 10:57:22 AM

Massachusetts may become the third state in the nation to ban carry-out plastic bags, after California and Hawaii.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who has co-sponsored a bill calling for such a ban, said through a spokesperson that “this is an idea whose time has come.”

“Drastic action is needed to combat climate change and reduce pollution,” Comerford said.

Hawaii banned plastic bags in 2015 and California followed in 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A bill proposed in the state Legislature last month calls for stores to ban providing single-use plastic bags at check-out starting Aug. 1. Recycled paper bags would cost 10 cents. Between the time the bill passes until Aug. 1, single-use plastic bags and recycled paper bags would cost 10 cents. Stores are permitted to keep proceeds from carry-out bag sales.

The bill, proposed by state Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, has been co-sponsored by many other state senators and House members.

“Once a plastic bag makes its way to the ocean, it never really biodegrades – it gets ingested by fish and clams and also gets taken up by birds,” Ehrlich said Monday.

Ehrlich said many grocery stores support the bill, in part, because it will establish a uniform law for stores to follow.

A representative from the Massachusetts Food Association, a firm that advocates for grocery stores on political issues, said grocery stores with multiple locations would appreciate having one law to follow. 

“Right now, it’s a hodge-podge of everything all over the state,” Brian Houghton, senior vice president of government affairs and communications at the Massachusetts Food Association, said Tuesday. 

Grocery stores in Massachusetts do not have a position on the bill yet, Houghton said. 

A similar bill to ban plastic bags was proposed by Ehrlich last session, she said. While the bill passed the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and the Senate, it did not pass the Conference Committee.

“My hope is that we build on the momentum that we had going last session working with my colleagues to protect the environment,” Ehrlich said.

The movement to ban plastic bags has gained momentum over the past few years. Currently, 91 cities and towns throughout the state have regulations on plastic bags, according to Massachusetts Green Network.

Boston is in the midst of enforcing a plastic bag ban approved by the mayor and City Council in 2017. In December, the ban went into effect for businesses occupying more than 20,000 square feet. It will apply to stores with more than 10,000 square feet April 1 and to all stores July 1.

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, another bill co-sponsor, said Monday that a statewide ban “feels incredibly important.” 

“A lot of the Legislature is realizing that we have to make climate a focus in this next session,” Sabadosa said.

The proposed plastic bag ban does not extend to bags used for fruit, vegetables, meat, and other items that may be damaged or may contaminate other items. The ban would also exempt plastic bags used for clothing hangers.

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