Public health, environmental groups applaud Gov. Baker’s decision to rescind emergency order on plastic bags

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Public health, environmental groups applaud Gov. Baker’s decision to rescind emergency order on plastic bags

BOSTON — According to the Commonwealth of MA COVID-19 website, as of July 10, Gov.Charlie Baker rescinded the emergency order he issued in March, which suspended the use of reusable bags in stores and froze the ban on single use plastic bags in the 139 cities and towns that had passed such prohibitions. The rescission, or update to that order, can be found here:

Environmental organizations, public health groups, grassroots activists, municipal leaders, and many others have been clamoring for this rescission and welcomed the news.

“This is a home run — good for the environment, for public health, for reducing waste, and for protecting both workers and shoppers,” said Janet Domenitz, executive director of MASSPIRG, who had been part of a large effort to get Gov. Baker and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel to lift the emergency order. “We are grateful to the governor and his team for making this decision.”

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when we knew less about how people transmitted the virus, the commonwealth issued a number of emergency orders out of an abundance of caution. However, since then, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that the primary means of transmission is person-to-person, among other findings. 

Kirstie Pecci of Conservation Law Foundation said, “Experts from around the world have stated that no known cases of COVID-19 have been linked to any surface, including reusable bags. When the Governor issued this order, we didn’t have this information. Now we know single use bags, cups, and food ware are not going to protect us from COVID-19. ”

Alex Vai, volunteer Vice Chair and Campaigns Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation Massachusetts Chapter said, “We are grateful for the dedicated and ongoing work by front-line workers and the general public to flatten the curve in Massachusetts, and to the Baker Administration for making this science-based decision to restore reusable bag use. It puts us in a much better position to achieve the inseparable goals of protecting public health and the environment beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead, the chief sponsor of the bill which would ban single use plastic bags statewide said, “This is great news. Our waterways, wildlife, and sewer drains all stand to benefit from Gov. Baker’s restoration of local ordinances designed to keep plastic out of the environment. Now that the status of local efforts is back to where we were, we can refocus our energy on making this state law.” 

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, the Senate sponsor of the same bill commented: “I am pleased that Governor Baker has agreed to lift the moratorium on municipal plastic bag bans in retail stores. Our environment should not become more polluted as a result of the pandemic, and I’m eager to see more communities now pass their own plastic bag ban, as momentum continues to build for passing the statewide ban legislation.” 

According to the Massachusetts Sierra Club, a leading proponent of sustainable bag laws, Massachusetts residents use more than 2 billion plastic shopping bags per year (about a bag per person per day). The synthetic petrochemicals used to make plastic bags cause significant human health problems, including air pollution that worsens impacts from COVID.

Clint Richmond of the Sierra Club said, “We’ve been hearing from people across the state regarding the increasing amounts of solid waste and litter during the pandemic especially from single-use plastic. Allowing reusable bags and removing the ban on plastic-bag bans is a much needed return of existing policies. We urge the Governor to improve public health by further reducing plastic consumption.”