Massachusetts Senate Acts to Ban Plastic Bags, Reduce Straw and Plasticware Usage, Boost Recycling and Composting

Measures would reduce plastic waste, a major threat to the environment, climate goals, and public health  

(BOSTON—6/20/2024) Today the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that builds on the state’s climate and environmental leadership by banning single-use plastic bags, making straws and plasticware available by request only, and making it easier to recycle. The legislation passed by a vote of 38-2, with Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voting in favor of the measure.  

“I am lucky to represent communities that are extremely conscious of our environment and actively taking steps to protect it,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Every municipality in my district has a bylaw regulating or banning the use of single-use plastic bags on the books today, and I believe that this is the time to expand the ban statewide. I strongly support this bill and its efforts to reduce plastic waste in our rivers, our parks, our roads, and all throughout our ecosystem, and I hope to see this bill taken up in the House of Representatives soon.”  

S.2830, An Act to reduce plastic would drastically reduce plastic waste that is too often found in streets and waterways—and too often fills landfills and disposal sites—ultimately harming the environment in Massachusetts communities and contributing to global climate change. Plastics are also made using fossil fuels. 

The legislation will prohibit carry-out plastic bags at retail stores statewide and require stores to charge 10 cents for recycled paper bags, five cents of which will be allocated to environmental protection measures. The bill provides a limited exemption from the requirement to collect 10 cents for small local retailers. As of May 2023, 162 Massachusetts cities and towns, making up nearly 70 per cent of the state’s population, already regulated single-use plastic bags.  

The bill will also prevent plastic utensils and straws from automatically being given to consumers, prohibit single-use plastic bottle purchases by state agencies, and create a statewide program for recycling large plastic objects such as car seats. Further, it increases statewide bulk plastic recycling by creating a statewide program for the recycling of large plastic objects, such as car seats. 

In an effort to reduce the $10 million annually in avoidable costs directly caused by the flushing of non-flushable wipes, the bill will require non-flushable wipes to be clearly labeled with “Do Not Flush” warnings to prevent disruptions to the Commonwealth’s sewer system.  

The legislation also asks Massachusetts to lead by example, eliminating the purchasing of plastic bottles by state agencies, and codifying the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s 2023 Executive Order on single-use plastic bottles.   

The bill would boost composting, the natural recycling of organic food scraps and materials, by directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to submit a report on the Commonwealth’s progress toward expanding access to composting. It also establishes a new commission to make recommendations on ways in which the state can encourage or require businesses to support recycling of efforts for the products that they produce. 

It is the second time the Massachusetts Senate has taken action to prohibit single-use plastic bags in the Commonwealth.  

Having passed the Senate, the legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.