The Mass Green Network is pushing for a statewide ban on plastic bags following a series of legislative victories in local communities.
Nearly two hundred members from across the state gathered at a summit in Boston this weekend to share best practices and new resources.
Founder Brad Verner says this network of local advocates played a major role in generating momentum for the state bill. They helped pass over 60 laws to reduce plastic waste in Massachusetts over the last two years, including a recent ban in Boston. “What we’ve done is basically crowdsourced the environmental movement,” said Verner.
Like the city ban, set to take effect in December, the state bill would bar all retail stores from distributing single-use plastic bags, offering reusable or recyclable paper bags as alternatives. After a favorable committee vote late last week, the bill awaits its fate in the House.
Alison Leary, City Councilor At-Large in Newton, is apprehensive, noting that the House has been a dead end for past attempts at bans. She’s also encouraged by the positive results she’s seen in her own community two years after their ban went into effect.
“I just don’t see plastic bags in trees or blowing around parking lots like I used to,” she said.
Reducing single-use bags is a priority among local experts. As Alex Vai, who represented the Surfrider Foundation at the summit, explained in his presentation. “Stopping pollution at the source is what we need to do.”
Much of that responsibility falls on the individual. Michael Orr, Recycling Director for the city of Cambridge, says residences can start by better sorting their trash. Plastic bags often get caught in separating equipment, increasing the cost of operation of recycling companies.
Gina McNeil is a volunteer with Melrose Recycling Committee who attended the summit. Frustrated by the lack of progress at the federal level on environmental issues, she echoed the viability grassroots organization: “I think one of the things that everyone is facing right now is the realization that if we want to see change on many different issues, including environmental issues, we have to act locally.”