Reducing Plastic Waste

(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.

“In Massachusetts, we take pride in being a leader when it comes to protecting our environment and people’s health, and this bill continues that leadership” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Limiting our plastics use means less trash in our water ways and on our streets, and giving our kids the green, clean planet they deserve to inherit. This is a crucial part of achieving the Commonwealth’s climate goals, and I want to thank Senator Rausch for her leadership, Chair Rodrigues, our members, and every advocate who has spoken up on this issue, for their hard work.”

“This vital legislation is another step forward towards eradicating plastics, a top environmental offender, in our everyday life,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  “We need to continue to move away from harmful plastics and throwaway products, like Europe has, and prioritize bio and eco friendly products and services to stay abreast of the global economy. I thank Senator Rausch for her unrelenting perseverance in moving this legislation forward once again.  I’m hopeful this is the first of many!”

“From microplastics in our blood to plastic bags in our waterways to greenhouse gases in our air, plastics pollute and harm our people and planet,” Senator Rebecca L. Rausch (D-Needham), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment. “The Plastics Reduction Act will prevent billions of single-use plastic bags, bottles, cutlery, and wipes from clogging up our environment, pipes, and landfills each year. This is a major win for our climate, our wildlife, and our health. I’m grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, and the many colleagues, staff, experts, and advocates whose partnership and contributions brought this bill across the Senate finish line.”

This is an important step towards reducing plastic waste in our environment.  I was very pleased that we could move it forward,” said Senator Will Brownsberger (D-Belmont).

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.


“It is past time for Massachusetts to shut off the plastic tap to protect human health and the climate,” said Kirstie Pecci, Executive Director of Just Zero. “Plastic grocery bags and other filmy and small plastic items are not going to get recycled – they just contaminate valuable recyclable materials. This bill would move Massachusetts businesses and residents to adopt reusables like cloth grocery bags, reusable food ware, and refillable glass bottles, and is long overdue.”

“Reducing plastics is an environment issue, a public health issue, and a climate issue,” said Sam Anderson, Director of Legislative and Government Affairs at Mass Audubon. “I congratulate the many communities across the state that have taken the bold step to ban or regulate plastic waste on the local level, but taking this initiative statewide will have even greater impact.  Kudos to the Senate for making sure the standard set by these towns is the new baseline necessary to ensure a sustainable and healthy future.”

“Nothing we use for just a few minutes should pollute the environment for decades,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG. “Getting rid of single use plastic bags, food ware and more will reduce plastic waste, cut down on litter and make a cleaner, greener future for everyone.” 

“We would like to thank Senator Rausch, Senate President Spilka and all the legislators who have brought us to this historic point in the fight against plastic pollution in the Commonwealth,” Clint Richmond, Conservation Chair of the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “Massachusetts now has the opportunity to join with the many states that have passed laws to address the plastic problem. We look forward to working with the legislature to get the bill delivered to the Governor.”

“ELM commends the Massachusetts Senate for their ongoing commitment to meeting our climate and conservation challenges with strong legislation aimed at deploying renewable energy, protecting nature, and reducing polluting waste,” said David Melly, Legislative Director for the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “The net-zero transition represents a watershed opportunity to improve the way we engage with communities, protect valuable land and water, and address disproportionate burdens when we site, permit, and plan infrastructure. And comprehensive action on waste reduction will both support our climate goals and reduce damage to the very same natural resources we’re working to protect.”


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

42 replies on “Reducing Plastic Waste”

  1. What are dog owners supposed to use when they pick up after their dogs? Cat owners also have to scoop poop and put it somewhere. Please advise.

      1. Clear as MUD.
        If “doggie bags” cannot be sold in retail stores where does one buy them? The Web? Town fairs? New Hampshire? Dogtown?
        No plastic utensils at certain supermarkets to eat the salad bar? A supermarket is going to supply silverware?
        People put their produce in smaller plastic bags at every supermarket. Now what?
        Can you still buy zip lock bag to store food in and hefty plastic bags to put trash in?
        Will we continue to use PLASTIC trash and recycle BINS?
        Plastic is in a lot of shoes and sandals. Good bye?
        Pens made out of plastic? Back to pencils?

        1. Firstly, the law says that plastic straws/utensils are not automatically added to an order, but need to be requested. But for both there are perfectly good compostable options available. Same with those pesky produce bags. There are many brands of thin film bags that are made from compostable, starch based plastic, same goes for trash bags and storage/freezer bags. There are already many options to avoid a lot of single use plastic. One just has to be willing to look for them and make the switch.

    1. There are several brands of poop bags available that are certified compostable. They are starch based and will disintegrate after a while.

    2. If you have a newspaper delivered, it comes in a small plastic bag which might be useful for this purpose — if those are not also banned. If you don’t get a newspaper, perhaps a neighbor who does would be happy to give you his or hers.

  2. I’m happy to hear of this bill passing the Senate. Way to go senators and everyone who worked on this legislation!

  3. When Belmont passed a bylaw prohibiting plastic bags, there was an exemption for wet items, such as fish sold at farmers’ markets (it’s packed in sealed plastic, but sits in ice at the farmers’ market, so it’s wet). Does this new regulation override that local rule, or is there a similar exemption?

    § 60-1115 Exemption.
    Thin-film plastic bags with or without handles that are used to contain laundry or dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items, and other similar merchandise are not prohibited under this article.

    1. Why aren’t they prohibited?
      Does this mean that there is actually a use for plastic?
      Hub caps?

  4. Great to hear about this bill passing in the Senate. Thank you to every Senator who advocated for it.

  5. Thank you, Will and all of the senators who supported plastic pollution bills in the MA Senate today.

  6. 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.

    Yeah good luck on this one. Why not just ban non-flushable wipes like the state did for menthol cigarettes? Does the state really think the lost revenue will match or exceed the $150 million in lost tax revenue from the ban on menthol since 2020? Does the state think that our citizens will react the same way and smuggle non-flushable wipes in same way as menthol cigarettes from RI or NH? MA citizens will switch to flushable wipes.

    1. oh no! I’d better order more non-flushable wipes. Having to pay a plumbing bill should deter people! There are always going to be bad apples in the barrel and the rest of us should not suffer.

    2. Anyone who has to pay a plumbing bill once would not use non-flushable wipes again. Thanks but I want to use wipes. They are not cheap either.

  7. I’m very happy to see the senate passing legislation to help eliminate plastic pollution.

    1. Hi Anthony,
      Some cities require bagging of trash in large plastic bags. Anyway, that’s what people use these days.
      Each such large bag is probably the equal of more plastic carry-out bags than the average household uses in a week or month.
      A lot of the things the legislature votes for is just “virtue signalling.”

  8. Oh, no! I love plastic bags. They’re not waste, they’re use. People should have a choice. If you don’t want to use plastic bags, use a reusable bag. Shop owners should have a choice.
    Choice! Let the market and citizens decide!

    I keep buying 99¢ TJ’s bags and keep losing them, or sacrifice them.

    Only with plastic bags can I hold 5 grocery bags in each hand and only need to make one trip from the car. You can put plastic bags on your handlebars, but not paper bags.

    People rely on public transportation and can’t bring reusable bags to work, or don’t know we need them setting out in the morning and need strong plastic bags to bring groceries hone on the way back from work on the T, because paper bag handles rip if you hold two in one hand.

    Who has 99¢ to buy a new set of bags because we forgot or didn’t plan on going to the store?

    Also, relatedly, the Cambridge Bag Law is a violation of the First Amendment. If I’m a store owner and I want to express my appreciation to my customers by giving my customers, my neighbors and friends a bag and putting groceries in them then there must not be a tax on that figurative speech.

    1. I take public transportation and carry reusable bags to work when I need them. There are ones that take up very little space when folded, so easy to carry even when you aren’t sure you will stop at a store before going home.

      1. What do you do when you don’t plan on needing them, but you get a call to pick something up on the way home (or decide, or remember to pick something up on the way home)?

        Is this about the environment, or about November?

        My first vote was for WJC and I have exclusively voted Dem, but instead of being the party that gives it’s become the party that takes. I’m still a Democrat even if my party isn’t, though I have a conundrum this fall. I cannot in good conscience vote to cement socialism, anti-liberalism and antisemitism.

        1. We absolutely must take the bitter pill and take our medicine. It’s better for the long term health of both parties to put an end to campaigning on fear and shore up the institutions as Trump attempts to dismantle them. My party has become equally corrupted by him as the GOP. If we can’t survive a second term we stand no chance down the line when a more competent fascist comes along.

          1. Fred, do you have anybody in your life, or perhaps you, who has already been impacted and will be more deeply by the supreme court choices made by trump? we will have to see trumps decisions for the rest of our lives. I am also not happy with either choice right now. Trump is a buffoon, sure, but he surrounds himself with those more calculating, can be easily manipulated with a compliment, and makes decisions on a whim and by what suits his ego. And some of these decisions have devastating consequences for wars, womens rights, lgbt rights, healthcare, the environment. I agree that both parties are corrupt as you have said but I also shudder to think what giving power back to a felon who has instigated such things as Jan 6 will do to his unchecked abuse of checks and balances.
            I realize this is not what this thread is about, but since you brought it up…I am curious about the domino effect. I don’t have kids, but what world are we leaving children, and what consequences will a more emboldened trump be leaving them?

  9. Part of the problem is there are plenty of food containers which Boston’s contractor to my knowledge does not accept for recycling. All the PPs can’t be recycled. Nor Styrofoam. There are plastic cookie trays. There’s plenty of stuff marked with a triangle which again to my knowledge can’t be recycled.

  10. Look up Wendy’s “Soviet Fashion Show.”

    Demand choice! This hurts the weakest and gooses votes.

    1. I applaud that this is proactive, but surely there is waste reduction in industry that doesn’t put so many regular people out.
      And, speaking of November, Massachusetts is a safe state for Democrats opposed to antisemitism to deliver a grand message to the Party to cease appeasing socialist BDS &c, progressives such that the WH would betray American Jews and deal a grave blow to Israel. We don’t have the nut Kennedy on the ballot, and we could write in an agreed upon name.

      I always hear Republicans are desperate for a sane candidate, well if the Dems, or a Dem candidate that was a bulwark against the extremists holding so many reins in the Party….

  11. Plastic comes from fossil fuels. Bag bans hurt the workers. Target the top of the food chain to reduce waste. We’re not the stakeholders, we don’t have as much representation as say an Under Armor, but we have more taxation, let them cut plastic waste.

    Let’s make Amazon reduce the petroleum thirsty cargo ships which probably burn in one ocean crossing the equivalent of a city’s plastic bag usage.

    There is often no equivalent replacement for a plastic bag. And, Starbuck’s new straws bite.

    1. Do you work for a plastic bag manufacturer? If you love them so much, go buy some. Stop making the rest of us subsidize pollution (and your poor planning.)

      I’m tired of seeing plastic bags in trees, the ocean, parks -and microplastics are terrifying. Good riddance!

      1. This will force the supply side to push more plastic onto irresponsible and less accountable markets.

  12. Thank you Will and everyone who worked hard to pass this modest measure. It is a step in the right direction, but only a step. Once conveniences have wormed their way into our lifestyles, we seem reluctant to give them up. I for one am happy to have some leadership on the plastics issue. It is destroying our oceans and waterways and subtly poisoning all of us. I wish we could have banned non-flushable wipes and forced food businesses to hand out bamboo or palm leaf utensils. I would also be in favor of some universal takeout packaging that was recyclable.

  13. This isn’t about plastic bags, or even plastic. This is about power and culture and stereotypes. “Textiles” are composed of 60% of our clothes are made of plastic. If you’re wealthy that number is smaller. I just got a great, high-quality plastic bag from Sophia’s and I am going to reuse it until it falls apart.

    1. The plastic industry did this to us before with recycling: they shifted the blame and responsibility to the consumer, now we’re to blame for liking the convenience, functionality and durability of plastic bags and they make the bags the sacrificial lamb and link them to urban blight (the bag in the tree) it’s not the bag in the tree it’s the impoverished DPW who can’t prioritize getting a guy on a ladder. All the while Nike, Under Armor, Old Navy the list goes on carries on business as usual.

    2. What does “single use” mean in the context of plastic bags?

      Surely, you can’t expect someone to put a container of feta cheese in brine in a paper bag and bring that into your car. Without plastic bags you dare not open the olive container in the car without a plastic bag to catch the drips.

      Ban plastic clothes before you ban plastic bags.

  14. It’s all wonderful, but when does the state plan to stop softly stealing our money with can/bottle deposit fees?
    Most people do recycle and “refund” machines even in the best stores are more often broken and conveniently malfunctioning than not.
    If you are so concerned about the environment, then create a universal deposit return center. Not “we only refund what we sell, go to the store you bought it from” that we have now.

  15. Does the bill provide for tracking discarded recyclable material after it’s been picked up at curbside by municipal collection trucks? Will we ever find out which regular landfills it eventually gets dumped into? Or which developing country will accept it from us? Askin’ for a friend.

  16. I would like to see the ban applied to those plastic foam trays that you get meat, chicken and fish packed in at the grocery store. I recall years ago they were cardboard and we home composted those with vegetable waste. This worked years ago, it can work today. Just a small part of the solution.

  17. I am an obgyn and I know babies are born with plastic in them , placentas have plastic in them , drinking from plastic bottles leaches plastic into us . Plastic and petroleum go hand in hand . Anything we can do to reduce use and further manufacture of plastic is a start to help us not a final cure. Please everyone do what you can to reduce your use of plastic .

  18. I support this bill and thank you, Will, for helping to move it forward. As I see in comments above, some of my neighbors complain a lot and don’t like change. But these are often the same folks who fail to recognize the impact their actions have on others and on the environment we all share (also on wildlife!). Laws like this seem to be necessary to prevent people from creating thoughtless litter and excess waste in landfills in service of their personal, temporary convenience.

  19. Ok, phew! So small businesses and charities are exempt and won’t be hurt by this?

    We all realize plastic bags are not the problem, they’re the fig leaf/ face of the problem caused by the owners of both parties.

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