Plastic Bag Bans Gain Momentum in Massachusetts


Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

When checking out at the grocery store, purchases are typically placed in a thin plastic bag to be carried out. Once home, most people unpack the items in the bags and throw the bags away. The average lifespan of a plastic bag is twelve minutes, but they take 1000 years to degrade. The discarded bags wind up in landfills, the streets and most often, the ocean; where plastic kills 500,000 marine creatures annually, based on a September 2019 article by Pakistan & Gulf Economist. In fact, since you’ve began reading the article, about 2,400,000 plastic bags have been used – 160,000 are used each second according to Oceanwatch Australia.

Nonetheless, the United States is very delayed when it comes to banning plastic bags. According to ReuseThisBag, 32 countries, many of which are in Africa have banned single use plastic bags. China has had a restriction on thin plastic bags since 2008. Since, plastic bag use in China has dropped by about 40 billion bags per year according to ReuseThisBag. In some countries, especially in Africa, plastic was such a problem to the environment that many countries reacted with intense bans. In Kenya, if a person is caught selling or manufacturing plastic bags, they can be fined up to $19,000 and can spend four years in jail.

In addition to banning plastic bags, many countries have placed taxes on them too. The Pakistan & Gulf Economist reported that 18 countries have a tax, and Demark started this trend back in 1994. In Ireland, litter has dropped 90% since they imposed a tax in 2002. Many states in the U.S. have seen the need to ban plastic bags. Hawaii and California, both coastal states have placed complete bans on plastic bags. Washington DC has had a 5c tax on plastic bags since 2009. And as of August 1, 2019, Connectiut has imposed a 10c fee on plastic bags too. Vermont, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have also recently put restrictions on plastic bags. New York is going to completely ban plastic bags in March of 2020.

Furthermore, about 122 towns and cities in Massachusetts have placed restrictions and fees on plastic bags, according to The Boston Globe. Boston has had a ban since last year. Many coastal towns have banned plastic bags around the state. “I see less litter on the beaches since the ban has been put in place,” said Sarah Gauger, a senior at Marshfield High School in Massachusetts.

On a local level, Big Y – a Western Mass grocery store chain – has stopped using plastic bags since August. An employee at Big Y in Westfield and alumna of WSHS, Jacqui Paige said, “People were doubting that we were really using enough plastic bags to affect the environment but we went through about 30 big boxes of plastic bags per day and although some people say they reuse them, I’m sure most people just throw them away.” Although some customers are fine with using paper bags and buying reusable ones, there are customers at stores that get very annoyed and frustrated with the new policy.

In July, Massachusetts came close to banning plastic bags altogether but the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee revised the bill that would have banned plastic bags altogether so much that even supporters of the ban don’t want to pass it. The proposed bill now has loopholes for manufacturers to make thicker plastic bags instead, and doesn’t put a tax on paper bags which would encourage retailers to use a safer alternative. Nevertheless, environmentalists are still pushing for a ban to be passed in the state.