Lawmakers in Massachusetts are deliberating over multiple bills that would ban single-use plastic bags at state retail stores that are more than 4,000 square feet. This week, proposals passed through the legislature's joint Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, and a measure could be voted on in the state's House of Representatives before the end of April. Passage in the Massachusetts House and Senate would make The Bay State the first in the nation to enact a single-use ban.
"Nothing that we use for a few minutes should pollute the oceans for hundreds of years," said Rep. Lori Ehrlich, a sponsor of one of the proposals being considered. Ehrlich's bill, which was recommended by the Environment Committee, would provide an exemption for smaller retailers, as well as biodegradable plastic bags and bakery and produce bags.
This is not the first time Massachusetts legislators have debated a single-use plastic bag ban. Similar proposals passed the Environment Committee during the last legislative session, but no measure was ever brought to a vote on the House floor. To date, two communities in Massachusetts – Brookline and Manchester-by-the-Sea – have already banned single-use plastic bags. Additionally, while the Retailers Association of Massachusetts continues to oppose a ban, the state's major grocery chains did agree in 2007 to cut the total number of paper and plastic bags distributed by 33% by 2013.
Massachusetts joins California and Rhode Island as states considering a single-use plastic bag ban. Hawaii has a de-facto ban, as each of its counties has individually enacted legislation to outlaw single-use bags.