SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 25, 2013

Bill would bag plastic bags throughout state

MARBLEHEAD — Lori Ehrlich has one word for the Massachusetts Legislature — plastic.

More specifically, the Marblehead state representative wants an end to your supermarket’s plastic bags, making an argument that they’ve become an environmental menace, harming beaches, oceans and animal life. Ehrlich is sponsoring a bill that would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to outlaw the bags.

It’s hit some resistance from legislators who suggest that it might be a case of government overreach and retailers who warn that the policy is likely to cause consumers both inconvenience and money.

Ehrlich’s proposal has nonetheless already made progress in the Legislature, winning initial approval from the Environmental, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee. That was enough to impress Ipswich Republican Rep. Brad Hill.

“When the environmental committee put it out as quickly as it did,” Hill said, “it has legs. ... I haven’t seen the bill in its totality. But the underlying intent of the bill is a good one. It’s a very good solution to the pollution of our ocean.”

He praised the feature allowing plastic bags if they can be made biodegradable.

It’s the fact that the bags do not break down over time that has caused environmentalists to lament their impact, especially at the seacoast, Ehrlich said.

“Nothing that we use for a few minutes should pollute the ocean for hundreds of years,” said Ehrlich, who launched her political career after working on environmental causes on the North Shore. “Anyone who’s attended a beach cleanup knows how much plastic is in our ocean.”

Once the bags get into the environment, they can wreak havoc with animal life, she said. Creatures become entangled in the bags, or they can mistake them for food, swallow them and, thinking they’re full, slowly starve to death.

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