Single-use Plastic Bag Ban Passes MA Senate

June 21, 2024
• The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham, will now move through the House of Representatives.

A legislative effort to minimize the state’s plastic waste found support from the majority of state senators Thursday.

An Act to reduce plastic, passed in a 38-2 vote, would ban single-use plastic bags from retail stores across the state and prohibit the distribution of plastic straws, stirrers, utensils, cartons and other disposable food service ware, unless a customer requests it.

Single-use plastic bottles, however, would not be banned, but state agencies would not be able to purchase them — Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order last fall that did just that.

Under this potential statewide plastic bag ban, retailers would charge 10 cents for a recycled paper bag, with five cents allocated to environmental protection measures. Small local retailers would be exempt from that requirement, according to the bill.

Needham passed its own single-use plastic bag ban at Town Meeting last year, and proponents with Green Needham, an environmental activism cohort, returned at this year’s Town Meeting to advocate for a further plastics ban.

This spring, residents voted to ban local vendors from dispensing plastic stirrers, plastic splash guards and foam-based polystyrene — like Styrofoam — but they stopped short at plastic water bottles. The original petition included bottles, but the proponents pulled that condition before Town Meeting.

“The Plastics Reduction Act will prevent billions of single-use plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, and wipes from clogging up our environment, pipes, and landfills each year,” Rausch said in a statement. “This is a major win for our climate, our wildlife, and our health.”

More than 160 towns and cities in the Commonwealth have taken action against single-use plastic bags, and the Senate voted to ban single-use plastic bags in 2019, but the bill failed in the House.

Under the bill, a new statewide program would enable the recycling of “bulk plastic materials,” which could include “child passenger restraints.”

Rausch also included a line item in the Senate’s FY25 budget last month that calls for a $150,000 grant pilot program that would help small businesses adopt environmentally friendly products, such as food packaging, water bottles and bags.

Both the Senate bill and the budget item await further action — the bill must pass through the House, and the reconciled budget needs Healey’s approval.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, shared positive sentiments on the bill in the press release issued by Rausch’s office.

“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute the environment for decades,” Domenitz stated. “Getting rid of single use plastic bags, food ware and more will reduce plastic waste, cut down on litter and make a cleaner, greener future for everyone.”

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