Massachusetts upper chamber’s Ways and Means Committee released a bill that would ban single-use plastic shopping bags at store checkouts statewide and would preempt any plastic bag regulations already in place at the municipal level, such as Boston’s local ordinance.
Under Senate President Karen Spilka’s plan, recyclable paper bags would cost ten cents a piece to consumers, with a nickel going to cities and towns to promote recycling and a nickel staying with the retailer to cover the cost of the bag.
Spilka says a statewide ban will be easier on retailers than different rules in different municipalities. “Over 100 cities and towns have already taken some action to ban the use of plastic bags, Spilka told WGBH News. “This is one step moving forward. But it’s something that we should definitely, definitely do as a state.”
Small retailers would be exempted from the fee on paper bags until 2022. The Senate plans to pass the bill Wednesday, their last formal session until January. The bill would then move to the House when formal legislative business resumes in 2020, where’s there’s little indication that Speaker Robert DeLeo has much interest in banning plastic bags.
Spilka agrees with environmentalists that the ubiquitous thin plastic bags pollute waterways and harm animals. She says she saw marine life choking on plastic pollution while on a family trip to Alaska and Canada. “It just really made me realize that we as a state need to do something because there are alternatives that are readily available and we need to reduce our use of plastic,” Spilka said.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jaime Eldridge says the 10 cent fee for paper bags, split between the retailer and municipality, is key to altering consumer behavior. “There really was a sense from talking to environmental advocates that to really change consumer behavior, that ten cents would have a bit more of an effect on people,” Eldridge said.
“Why not apply a fee that, you know, would have a little bit more of an impact on consumers to change their behavior?” Eldridge told WGBH News.