Over the past few years, an increasing number of Massachusetts cities and towns, roughly twenty or so at this point, have taken steps to regulate plastic bags. Early on, some communities adopted measures requiring plastic carry out bags to be of a certain thickness (mils), banning anything thinner than the standard they set in their ordinance or by-law.

Taking the issue a step further, an ordinance took effect last month in the City of Cambridge that prohibits so called, single-use plastic bags with handles at the point of sale, and instituted a mandatory minimum $0.10 charge for any bag that is provided to a customer, such as a paper, compostable or reusable bag. Now a statewide bill, H.4168, An Act to reduce plastic bag pollution, has advanced out of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, that includes the mandatory $0.10 charge for any bag provided, but also bans outright ALL plastic bags – including the reusable plastic bags they’ve been telling us to use for years!

When did the plastic bag become Public Enemy Number One?

If a retailer wants to give their customer a free bag to carry home their purchases now they’re going to be breaking the law? Retailers do not want to be forced by the state to charge their customers for something that they are now offering them for free.

It used to be said that the customer was always right. Give consumers the choice. Retailers exist to serve their customers by providing quality service and consumer choice at a good value. Many retailers now provide their customers with a choice at checkout of what type of bag – if any – they wish to use to carry out their purchased items. Paper, plastic or reusable bags can be found in most stores, and depending on the items purchased, the customer is generally the one who makes that decision. Many retailers sell reusable bags and many also now provide the opportunity to recycle plastic bags on site.

Plastic carryout bags are often strong enough to reduce the need for double bagging of heavy items. They are recyclable and reusable. Plastic bags are now being recycled into new bags, composite lumber and other products. They are light weight and easy to carry, yet sturdy and water resistant. Consumers reuse plastic bags as wastebasket liners, lunch bags, cleaning up after pets and countless other ways. A ban on plastic bags is not needed and our government would be better served focusing on further consumer education of reuse and recycling options. 



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