Janet Domenitz's testimony in favor of banning plastic bags

By Janet Domenitz
Executive Director

Good afternoon Chairwoman Gobi and Chairman Schmid and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony today. My name is Janet Domenitz, and I am the Executive Director of MASSPIRG, a statewide, nonprofit organization working to promote the public interest in Massachusetts. I am here with Emily Olson, a policy intern with MASSPIRG.

We are here to support the goals iterated in many of the bills presented in today’s hearing. MASSPIRG has long pushed for the Commonwealth to set a goal of Zero Waste, which is more than simply an ideal. It is an internationally recognized public policy that truly enacts reduce, reuse and recycle practices, and it rejects increasing capacity for disposal. Even the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 75% of what we dispose could be reused or recycled, and many places around the country and the world have set ‘zero’ as their goal.  But even as we sit here, there is a pending proposal to expand a landfill in Southbridge, Mass, which is the exact opposite direction that we need to take.  There is no one perfect bill or simple answer to the problems of a ‘throwaway, bury and burn’ culture, but if we set zero waste as our goal, we will build momentum for the variety of policies needed to reach it.

As such, we support Rep. Hecht’s and Senator Lewis’ bill, H.687/ S.438, which sets targets to reduce municipal solid waste and enforce waste bans; Rep Kocot’s bill, H.703, which prohibits any additional incineration of solid waste; and Sen Pacheco and Rep Ferrante’s bill, S.454/H.671, which also establishes standards to reduce waste, achieve goals set by the solid waste master plan. We also hope that as these bills go through the legislative process, lawmakers, municipal officials who have taken action to reduce waste in their cities and towns, and DEP staff can communicate and coordinate, so we are being both ambitious and efficient in reaching for zero waste goals. Today we want to focus on one bill, to reduce plastic bag use, and for that I turn the testimony over to Emily.


My name is Emily Olson and I am interning this summer on MASSPIRG’s campaign for zero waste. There are several bills presented to you today that would limit plastic bag use, and we are grateful to Senators Joyce and Eldridge and Representatives Provost and Ehrlich for filing these bills. I want to quickly go over the top 8 reasons why banning plastic bags is important:

Reason Number 1: Americans go through over 100 billion plastic bags annually - spending 4 billion dollars on bags that are only used an average of 12 minutes.

Reason Number 2: Plastic bags take up to a thousand years to disintegrate into tiny pieces of plastic that pollute our environment and never fully degrade.

Reason Number 3: Plastic bags are made from fossil-fuels. It takes an estimated 12 million barrels of oil to make the 100 billion plastic bags used annually.

Reason Number 4: They are one of the most pervasive forms of litter, coming in fourth on the Ocean Conservancy’s top ten list of the most common types of litter found during coastal cleanups.

Reason Number 5: Plastic bags cause our cities and towns problems by clogging drains, which can lead to flooding. Los Angeles found that 25% of storm drain litter consists of plastic bags.

Reason Number 6: Plastic bags are only recycled at a rate of 5%. There is virtually no market for them to be recycled.

Reason Number 7: Plastic bags have only been around for a couple of decades. They became the predominant material used to carry things in 1996. We have lived without them before and clearly there are alternatives.

Reason Number 8: They are being banned all over the world, the country, and our state: Ireland saw a 90% reduction in bag use within weeks of taxing them. In Massachusetts, 14 cities and towns have already implemented or will soon implement a ban to clean up their communities.

 In closing, there are many reasons as to why plastic bags must be banned in order to reduce pollution, save taxpayer dollars, and become more thrifty.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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