A coalition of environmental, consumer, and public interest organizations gathered with two state senators -- Senator Jamie Eldridge and Senator Michael Barrett -- in front of the State House this morning with a plastic bag "monster" to present an important message: we must reduce our waste.
MASSPIRG and Environment Massachusetts chose to host their “Reduce before Recycle” event on 11/14 because 11/15 is America Recycles Day, which is sponsored by some of the very corporations who have opposed reduction and recycling measures. The groups wanted to call attention to the fact that “reduce” comes before “recycle” in the “reduce/reuse/recycle” mantra for a reason: we cannot recycle our way out of the mess we are in. “As one marine biologist who studies the plastic crisis in the ocean said, recycling has become the fig leaf for consumerism,” remarked Janet Domenitz of MASSPIRG.
Towns and cities across Massachusetts have already responded to citizen activism, calling for a reduction of plastic waste. Nearly 130 communities have banned plastic bags, plastic straws, and foam cups and takeout containers. But the state of Massachusetts lags behind its municipalities, as well as its neighbors in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut -- all of which have taken more and bigger steps than Massachusetts.
In 2017, Senator Barrett introduced a bill, as did state Rep. Marjorie Decker, that would ban foam cups and takeout containers across the state. Other legislation currently in the Massachusetts legislature includes a ban on single-use plastic bags, sponsored by Senator James B. Eldridge and Rep. Lori Ehrlich, and a bill that would make straws available by request-only.
Other speakers at the stand-up event each spoke about a range of measures that would curb the amount of plastic produced. John Hite from Conservation Law Foundation spoke about the pollution that results from disposal, and Mary Ann Ashton from League of Women Voters described all the important action taken by League chapters around the state. Corrine Steever of the New England Aquarium described how important it is to protect our oceans from plastic pollution.
“The bottom line is that nothing we use for just a couple minutes should pollute our waterways and harm our wildlife for centuries,” says Ben Hellerstein. “There’s a groundswell of support for taking action to cut back on plastic crisis, and we should do everything we can to take that support and make these bans into statewide law.”