What to know ahead of tomorrow’s vote on a statewide plastic bag ban

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What to know ahead of tomorrow’s vote on a statewide plastic bag ban

"“Having a fee is absolutely critical in changing consumer behavior. Half will go to the city or town to enforce the law or support other recycling efforts, the rest goes to the retail store to compensate,” Sen Jamie Eldrige said. Lizzie Hientz / Beacon Staff

"“Having a fee is absolutely critical in changing consumer behavior. Half will go to the city or town to enforce the law or support other recycling efforts, the rest goes to the retail store to compensate,” Sen Jamie Eldrige said. Lizzie Hientz / Beacon Staff

"“Having a fee is absolutely critical in changing consumer behavior. Half will go to the city or town to enforce the law or support other recycling efforts, the rest goes to the retail store to compensate,” Sen Jamie Eldrige said. Lizzie Hientz / Beacon Staff

By Anissa Gardizy

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The Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to debate a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags across the state tomorrow. 

The ban would prohibit the distribution of plastic bags and place a fee of at least 10 cents on all recycled paper bags or reusable bags. The ban would not apply to certain products, such as prescription medications, produce, meats, poultry, fish, and other food items in order to keep them fresh, according to the bill.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee proposed the new plastic bag bill on Monday, which takes a more comprehensive approach than another plastic ban currently pending in the House Ways and Means Committee.

The House’s bill – sponsored by Rep. Lori Ehrlich and Sen. Jamie Eldrige — underwent revisions this summer that dropped the bag fee from the legislation. 

Sen. Eldridge, who sits on the Environment Committee, voted against the bill’s revisions. He said in an interview that having the bag fee was critical to the effectiveness of the legislation. 

“Over 120 communities have passed a ban, but only a few of them have a fee involved,” he said. “Having a fee is absolutely critical in changing consumer behavior. Half will go to the city or town to enforce the law or support other recycling efforts, the rest goes to the retail store to compensate.”

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The statewide ban would override other policies already passed and enforced by communities in Massachusetts.

“We need to commit as a state to reducing plastic waste and plastic pollution,” Sen. Eldridge said. “That is not going to happen just doing it community by community, you need a statewide ban to significantly reduce the amount of plastic bags in consumer society.”

The City of Boston’s plastic bag ban went into effect in Dec. 2018. The ordinance also placed a fee of at least a 5 cents on recyclable paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable bags, which is retained by retail establishments. 

Following the city ordinance, Emerson College stopped distributing plastic bags began charging 10 cents for paper bags at some campus retail locations. The college also created a take-one-leave-one reusable bag program to help students transition into using reusable bags. 

After the expected vote in the Senate tomorrow — on the last day of 2019 formal sessions —the bill will go to the House and likely be voted on next year.