My Testimony for An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution

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This session is the sixth session that I have filed legislation relative to reducing the use of single-use carryout bags in the Commonwealth. Last session, a version of the bill was included in the Senate’s Environmental Bond bill, but failed to make it through Conference Committee. The hearing today for the plastic bag bill that Sen. Jamie Eldridge and I filed together was standing room only, and I was proud to be joined by so many of my colleagues for testimony. I’d especially like to thank Chairs Sen. Anne Gobi & Rep. Smitty Pignatelli and committee members for attentive listening and everyone who turned out to speak in support, including Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley who testified about leading the successful charge in Boston.  I tip my hat to all of the citizen activists, kids, and organizations in the 95 Massachusetts communities who have stepped up with local ordinances or to testify today for statewide action.


Chair Pignatelli, Chair Gobi and Honorable Members of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture:

 I come before you today in support of H.771, An Act Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution. This bill, and its sibling in the Senate, filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, seeks to remove single-use plastic bags from our waste stream.

 I want to thank both Chairs for their diligence and thoughtful engagement in previous sessions, and for moving this bill out of committee favorably in years past. I know you care about this issue and I thank you and our colleagues on the committee.

 As of today, 95 of our state’s communities, up from 55 last session, have passed plastic bag local ordinances. These 95 communities represent the diversity of our state in geography, topography, demographics, and size. Over 40% of the state’s population is covered by a bag ban from Athol to Arlington, Boston to Bourne, Grafton to Gloucester, Lenox to Lowell, Milton to Marblehead, and Tyngsborough to Tisbury. You get the idea!

 In testimony that follows me you will undoubtedly hear about the impact plastic is having on our planet. For instance The World Economic Forum is projecting that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the world’s oceans.

Plastic bags are having a particularly cruel impact and Massachusetts residents are playing a role, using more than 2 billion bags per year -- about a bag person per day. Bags cannot be recycled and routinely clog and shut down recycling facilities.

 Our inaction is not only devastating marine life, in their own home, but is having a human cost. Plastic, made from petrochemicals, never disappears – it persists and bioaccumulates -- working it’s way up the food chain to us, threatening wildlife along the way. Just this past week alone:

  • A beaked whale washed up on shore in the Philippines vomiting blood before it died. The whale was found to be starving to death with 88 pounds of non-digestible plastic bags in its stomach. Think about how many of these lightweight bags that must be. That’s just one whale. They all have plastic in their bellies.

  • The carcass of a pregnant sperm whale washed up in Italy with 49 pounds of plastic in her belly and was carrying a dead fetus. Her belly was full of plastic bags, fishing nets, and a detergent container with the bar code still visible.

This is just one week! Whales, fish, turtles, birds -- they’re all absorbing our plastic bags that we only use for an average of 12 minutes. Once we make the connection, we must act.

55 countries and now the European Union have already done their part to ban these plastic menaces. CA has had a ban for years and NY is doing this in their budget. We LOVE to beat NY! So let’s do it again!

 Whether it is the approach in this bill which requires a 10-cent fee for recycled paper bags after a phase out period, or some other approach to banning plastic of all thicknesses, let’s get this done before it’s too late.

 We managed just fine before the bags were available. We can do it again.

Preyel Patel