Brookline resident Clint Richmond, who helped push for the ban, said the bags’ environmental costs aren’t worth the benefits, especially with good alternatives such as paper and reusable bags.
“While they’re convenient, they’re not absolutely necessary and ... they have, in many cases, (caused) unusual or above average harm,” he said. “Cows aren’t choking on paper bags.”
The Brookline ban applies to retail stores with more than 2,500 square feet, which must use bags that are compostable or marine degradable.
Brian Houghton, vice president of the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents supermarkets and food stores, said that the compostable material has its own problems, since they can’t be composted without an industrial process or recycled with plastic bags without messing up the batch.
The plastic bags need just a fraction of the transport space as an equivalent amount of paper bags — one reason they’re cheaper for stores, and, ultimately, consumers, he said. And the bags, though visible, are just a small part of larger litter problems, he said. But stores are pushing reusable bags and their recycling programs to cut down on their use, Houghton said.
“We’ve always said, the problem isn’t the bag itself, it’s what people do with it after they’re done with it,” he said.
Numerous places worldwide ban the bags, from San Francisco to Paris. But no state Legislature has ever banned the bags, though Hawaii doesn’t have them after every state county prohibited them.
Ehrlich said she doesn’t yet know the exact language of her latest Massachusetts proposal, but she predicts growing support for the idea.
“Awareness is increasing and people are demanding that their legislators support it,” she said. “So I’m hopeful that this will be the session we’ll be able to pass it.”