Year End Review of Local Plastics Legislation

MA plastic bag bans

Blue: plastic bag ban only
Yellow: polystyrene ban only
Green: plastic bag ban + polystyrene ban

While Massachusetts has yet to pass any statewide plastic ban, we have been a national leader in local bans. The state's first restrictions were passed in 1989 with Nantucket and Great Barrington to address polystyrene, especially the foam form that was harming the ozone layer. The movement expanded rapidly after Concord's groundbreaking retail bottled water ban and Brookline's plastic bag and polystyrene bans all in 2012. While the pace has slowed recently under the pandemic, as of the end of 2021, 151 municipalities representing 65% of the total population of the Commonwealth have passed some kind of plastic regulation including bottled water, straws, nip bottles and balloons. However, the two most common types of regulation restrict plastic bags and polystyrene packaging. Coastal communities and especially the Cape and Islands have been leaders.

Product Type Number of Communities
Shopping Bags 148
Polystrene & Food Packaging 54
Bottled Water 25
Straws & Stirrers 12
Nip Bottles 5
Balloons 5

Most plastic bag bans actually regulate all types of shopping bags to make them more sustainable. Six communities have even regulated produce bags (Brookline and Northampton are the largest). Polystyrene bans have often been extended to include a wide range of plastic food packaging as in Brookline, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Northampton.

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