Massachusetts could become the first state to ban plastic bag use at large retail stores, part of an effort to prevent litter from harming marine animals and to reduce waste scattered through streets and stuck in tree branches.
Lawmakers on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Committee quickly moved the legislation (H 696 and S 359) forward immediately following a hearing on the issue. The bills ban single-use plastic bags at retail stores larger than 4,000 square feet. The ban would exempt smaller retail stores and not include plastic produce and bakery bags used inside grocery stores.
Hundreds of communities across the country have instituted some type of ban. Mostly recently in Massachusetts, Brookline and Manchester by the Sea approved bans. No state has enacted a statewide ban. However, Hawaii does have a de-facto statewide ban, with all four counties in the state now banning non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout as well as paper bags that are not at least 40 percent recycled. Similar legislation was recommended by Massachusetts lawmakers on the Environment Committee last session, but it never surfaced for a vote in the House.