Current Legislation

An Act to reduce plastic pollution

House Bill 3438

Update: Received a favorable report from the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee; pending in House Ways & Means

MSPCA position:  Support

What would this law do?
This bill requires compostable and marine degradable plastic bags to be the only type of plastic bags used at stores of a certain size and/or number of locations.

Why change this law?
Plastic bags can cause much harm to wildlife.  According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are several major negative impacts of plastic bags and other marine debris:

  • Ingestion—whales and other marine mammals, sea turtles, birds, fish, crabs, and other animals ingest debris, which can contain toxic substances, and consequently suffer injury, infection, reproductive failure, starvation, and even death.
  • Entanglement – animals can get entangled in debris, restricting them and causing exhaustion, infection, suffocation, starvation, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators, and death.
  • Ecosystem Alteration – sensitive ecosystems, and the plants and animals in them, can be harmed by debris and also by clean-up efforts, such as beach-raking.
  • Introduction of Invasive Species – floating debris can carry invasive species from one body of water to another.

Prevention of problems related to pollution is critical; reduction of waste and biodegradability of products are important. Requiring biodegradable bags would address both sides of this equation – limiting the use of plastic bags and making those that are used more environmentally friendly.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has standards for both biodegradable and compostable plastics. For example, plastic bags made from plastics such as ASTM D6400 are considered compostable and biodegradable, making them far safer for wildlife than traditional plastic bags. Marine degradable bags conform to an ASTM 7081 standard.

Estimates of numbers of animals affected by plastic bags varies, but sources agree that all marine animals (and plants) can be impacted and that threatened species, such as sea turtles and whales, die from plastic bags and other marine debris. As a coastal state, Massachusetts should be
particularly cautious about plastic bags and other waste that can get onto our beaches and into coastal waterways; Nantucket, Brookline, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Great Barrington have banned plastic bags.

Sponsors:  Representative Ehrlich, Senator Eldridge, and Representative Provost.