NEW REPORT: Analysis finds bag bans effective at reducing plastic waste, litter

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Boston, MA – Until recent decades, most shopping didn’t involve single-use plastic bags. That could be the case again soon. Recently enacted plastic bag bans across the United States, including next door in Connecticut, have proven that people can shop without plastic bags – and benefit their communities by doing so.

Plastic Bag Bans Work, a new report released Thursday by MASSPIRG Education Fund, Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group, estimates that, on average, plastic bag bans similar to those studied can eliminate almost 300 single-use plastic bags per person, per year. Studied bans have also reduced plastic bag litter by one-third or more and encouraged the use of more sustainable options.

“It’s in the bag,” said Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG. “Plastic bag bans work to reduce waste and pollution.”

The report analyzed data from across the country and found that bans in just five locations (with a combined population of more than 12 million people) have cut single-use plastic bag consumption by about 6 billion bags per year – or enough to circle the earth 42 times.

As of 2021, more than 500 cities and towns across 28 states had a plastic bag ordinance in effect. Ten states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – had some form of statewide ban on single-use plastic bags as of 2023 and bans in Colorado and Rhode Island went into effect on the first day of 2024.

“Over the past six years, an incredible amount of advocacy has been done by environmental organizations committed to eliminating plastic from retail purchases, led by MASSPIRG, with excellent policy work by the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and over 160 communities having passed a plastic bag ban,” said State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough). “I do believe this legislative session is the time to pass a statewide, comprehensive plastic bag ban, to literally eliminate millions of plastic bags from the waste stream.”

“I look forward to working to advance a universal statewide ban. In my district, our school children are some of our strongest advocates and I am proud to stand with them,” added Rep. Mindy Domb, lead House sponsor.

“It’s been well over a decade since a single-use plastic bag bill was introduced to the Legislature,” said Clint Richmond of the MA Sierra Club. “In the meantime we’ve worked with scores of cities and towns to take action. There has been consistent and overwhelming support for comprehensive check-out bag regulations at the local level. It’s way past time for a statewide law.”

“This report reinforces what we’ve been seeing and saying for years,” said Alex Vai of the Surfrider Foundation MA Chapter. “A well designed bag bill will successfully reduce waste and marine plastic pollution with virtually no downside for businesses and consumers. Implementing strong, uniform policy statewide on checkout bags is a clear win for Massachusetts.”

Earlier this week, a bill reducing single use plastics got a favorable report from the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Becca Rausch and Rep. Ted Cahill. Advocates are hopeful that the momentum from the Committee will help get the bill to Governor Healey’s desk before long.

To see what environmental impact a plastic bag ban would have in your local community, head to our “Single-use plastic bag ban waste reduction calculator” tool and input your city or state.

MA bag ban report PR

Photo: Public Interest Network staff

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