Environment Massachusetts Urges Passage of Ban on Plastic Bags

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Senior Director, Clean Water for America Campaign and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Testimony of John Rumpler to Chairman Pacheco, Chairwoman Gobi and Members of the Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Environment

Environment Massachusetts

Chairman Pacheco, Chairwoman Gobi and Members of the Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Environment,

My name is John Rumpler, and I am senior attorney for Environment Massachusetts, a statewide citizen-supported environmental advocacy organization. In order to protect the wildlife and ecology of our oceans, we urge the Committee to pass a ban on single use plastic bags.

A recent study released by the Blue Ocean Society found 2,793 plastic bags while on whale watch trips off the coast of Massachusetts – the habitat for humpback, fin, and right whales. These grocery bags that we get at checkout, carry home, and throw away are so light that they blow away off the tops of garbage trucks and out of landfills and often wind up in rivers and the ocean, where they are mistaken for food and eaten by wildlife. Plastics kill sea turtles, whales, seals, and more than a million sea birds each year.

Once plastic bags make their way into the ocean, they never biodegrade. Instead, they break into smaller and smaller pieces, collecting toxins like PCBs and DDT as they go, and are ingested by animals like fish and clams, poisoning the food chain–which includes us.

Across the country, communities and legislatures are taking action to protect our ocean wildlife by banning plastic bags. Thanks to my colleagues at Environment California and local activists, approximately one-quarter of the population of the largest state in the nation now live in communities without single use plastic bags. The same is true for nearly a dozen cities and towns in the Northwest, including Seattle and Portland.

And now New England communities are protect our oceans by going plastic-free as well. First Westport, CT, then Barrington, RI, and in November, Brookline, MA passed a ban on plastic bags. Now other Massachusetts towns are following their lead – including Manchester by the Sea.

While these local bans are excellent first steps, statewide action is needed to protect our whales, turtles, and seabirds from the scale of plastic pollution entering our oceans. Just last week, California’s Senate Environmental Quality Committee voted to approve SB 405, Senator Alex Padilla’s bill to ban single-use plastic bags. But if this Committee adopts a plastic bag ban today, perhaps the Commonwealth can move even faster than California to protect our oceans.

Here on this Earth Day, there are many complex and challenging problems facing our planet. But saying goodbye to disposable plastic bags is one simple step that this Committee can take today to curb plastic pollution in our oceans.

Nothing we use for five minutes should our ocean wildlife for generations to come. It’s time for the Bay State to say goodbye to the plastic bag.

 

RESOURCES:
Environment California Research & Policy Center, Leading the Way toward a Clean Ocean (July 2011) http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/sites/environment/files/reports/Lea…