Changes to Massachusetts Plastic Bag Bill Anger Environmentalists | Connecticut Public Radio

Changes to Massachusetts Plastic Bag Bill Anger Environmentalists

Jul 8, 2019
Originally published on July 8, 2019 12:02 pm

Environmental activists are livid about revisions to a plastic bag bill in Massachusetts, made by a legislative committee, that they say is worse than doing nothing.

Both the old and new versions of the bill would ban thin, single-use plastic bags. But in the new version, retailers no longer have to charge a small fee for paper bags, and they can offer thicker plastic bags.

Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG said, even more frustrating, the legislation would replace all local plastic bag bans -- an estimated 120 to date.

"It would wipe out the cities that have gone even farther than this bill and require them to go backwards," she said.

Dominitz said she'd rather see no bill than the new version.

State Representative Lori Ehrlich, who filed the original bill with state Senator Jamie Eldridge, said she shares that disappointment.

"[The revision] does appear to be worse for the environment than potentially what we have now," she said. "I only encourage everybody to stay with it through the process."

Erlich said legislators will have more opportunities to amend the bill.

Erlich said she understands that's it's complicated for retailers to navigate a "patchwork" of local laws. But, she said, "You don't want to make it uniform in a way that is less protective of the environment. And I think local activists are really proud of their local ordinances."

Erlich said the new version does have some improvements, like penalties for stores that don't comply.

State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, who chairs the legislative committee that revised the bill, could not be reached for comment.

In the past, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts has expressed concern that charging for paper bags amounts to an extra fee on the state's consumers. Environmentalists point out that discouraging paper bag use is also important in reducing waste. 

Those in favor of strict plastic bag bans have highlighted the cost of plastic to wildlife, especially marine animals that choke on plastic waste, and the long period of time that plastic remains in landfills.

This report includes information from the State House News Service.

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