Inside Stories

Senate Acts to Ban Plastic Bags and Reduce Plastic Usage

Yesterday the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that builds on the state’s climate and environmental leadership by banning single-use plastic bags, making straws and plasticware available by request only, and making it easier to recycle. The legislation passed by a vote of 38-2.

“I’m very excited about the passage of the Act to Reduce Plastics. Reducing the amount of single-use plastic consumption is essential in ensuring waterways, streets, and communities in the First Middlesex District and statewide remain clean and safe,” said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Lowell).

“In Massachusetts, we take pride in being a leader when it comes to protecting our environment and people’s health, and this bill continues that leadership,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Limiting our plastics use means less trash in our waterways and on our streets, and giving our kids the green, clean planet they deserve to inherit.”

The legislation will prohibit carry-out plastic bags at retail stores statewide and require stores to charge 10 cents for recycled paper bags, five cents of which will be allocated to environmental protection measures. The bill provides a limited exemption from the requirement to collect 10 cents for small local retailers.

As of May 2023, 162 Massachusetts cities and towns, making up nearly 70 percent of the state’s population, already regulated single-use plastic bags.

The bill will also prevent plastic utensils and straws from automatically being given to consumers, prohibit single-use plastic bottle purchases by state agencies, and create a statewide program for recycling large plastic objects such as car seats.

In an effort to reduce the $10 million annually in avoidable costs directly caused by the flushing of non-flushable wipes, the bill will require non-flushable wipes to be clearly labeled with “Do Not Flush” warnings to prevent disruptions to the Commonwealth’s sewer system.

The legislation also asks Massachusetts to lead by example, eliminating the purchasing of plastic bottles by state agencies, and codifying the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s 2023 Executive Order on single-use plastic bottles.

The bill would boost composting, the natural recycling of organic food scraps and materials, by directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to submit a report on the Commonwealth’s progress toward expanding access to composting.

It also establishes a new commission to make recommendations on ways in which the state can encourage or require businesses to support recycling efforts for the products that they produce. It is the second time the Massachusetts Senate has taken action to prohibit single-use plastic bags in the Commonwealth.

Having passed the Senate, the legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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