A bill that would ban stores and restaurants in Massachusetts from giving customers single-use plastic bags cleared the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Feb. 2, 2018. The legislation would align state law with local policies adopted from Northampton to Nantucket, according to a report from the Daily News of Newbury.
The bill also would ban paper bags that are not made of recycled materials and would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to write regulations to enforce the policy.
The committee vote is only an initial step toward legislation potentially reaching the floor of the Massachusetts House or Senate, according to the report.
The legislation would ban stores from providing single-use plastic bags starting Aug. 1, 2019. While the bill would not preempt cities and towns from further limiting single-use carryout bags, it would render any ordinances or bylaws in place before enactment of the bill "null and void,” the Daily News of Newbury reports.
The bill drops language that would have required stores to charge a fee for recycled paper carryout bags. Marblehead Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Acton Sen. Jamie Eldridge, both Democrats, sponsored the redrafted bill.
Lenox Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, one of the committee chairs, tells the paper he "didn't feel comfortable" with the mandatory fee, adding that retailers could build the cost of giving out recycled paper bags into their business models.
H 2121 would allow stores to continue bagging fruit in handle-free plastic bags, permits bags used over clothes by dry-cleaners and allows pharmacies to provide medication in a paper bag.
Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) President and CEO Donna Harman issued the following statement in response to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture’s passage of H 2121:
“Paper is not part of the problem communities are trying to solve. The amended bill is a recognition that a paper bag fee undermines an environmentally responsible option to plastic shopping bags. Paper bags represent a sustainable packaging option for consumers who need carryout bags.”
The Massachusetts Senate previously passed a plastic bag ban via the budget, but the policy has never cleared the House, the Massachusetts Sierra Club tells the Daily News of Newbury.