The Massachusetts Chapter issued letters to the Baker Administration and eventually an action alert on July 2 calling upon Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel to lift the statewide ban on reusable shopping bags, and the mandatory suspension of at least 136 municipal single-use bag reduction laws.
We initiated a victory dance until we noticed that within the July 10 Order, the Commissioner explicitly noted that she was rescinding her Order pursuant to the Governor's Sector Specific Workplace Safety Standards for Retail Businesses to Address COVID-19 required protocols. Unfortunately, per the July 6, 2020 update those Standards, section II stipulates “Hygiene Protocols” that “Prohibit the use of retail bags; stores are permitted to use plastic or paper bags.”
Much to the delight of all who love the planet, however, the sector specific retail guidance was updated on July 13, 2020 and backdated to July 10, removing the subsection banning reusable bags!
We are grateful to our Surfrider MA supporters and our partners in MassPIRG, Mass Green Network and across the State for the unified effort to urge the Baker Administration to terminate the reusable bag ban, giving the power back to our municipalities to decide when and how to implement their local plastic reduction laws!
Protecting frontline workers and public health during this continued public health crisis rightfully remain top priority.
With restaurants now allowed to offer indoor dining and close contact services like nail salons allowed to reopen, the idea that a reusable bag ban is still required for public safety is getting even more far-fetched.
The latest science continues to show that the risk of catching coronavirus from objects is far less than that from close personal contact. Allowing reusable bags while asking customers to bag their own groceries protects retail employees, the public, and the environment.
We need to protect the progress we’ve made against COVID-19 by keeping up critical actions like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and great hand hygiene.
But including a ban on reusable bags is not a science-driven decision. Even in the midst of a crisis, we still need to remember the role that responsible re-use will play in a safe, sustainable future for everyone in Massachusetts.
Let’s get our state back on track as a leader in reducing unnecessary single-use pollution!