- Cambridge, MA — home to Harvard, MIT and Elizabeth Warren — is reporting positive results in the wake of a "Bring Your Own Bag" ordinance which took effect on March 31. According to the city's Recycling Advisory Committee, large retailers have reported a 50-80% reduction in single-use bags.
- The ordinance banned all single-use plastic bags with handles. Paper, reusable or compostable bags with handles now cost a minimum of 10 cents each. The city reports that nearly 1,000 businesses have begun participating since the ordinance took effect.
- In preparation for the ordinance, a reusable bag drive collected more than 8,000 bags and another 4,000 were purchased. The city distributed them to youth, seniors and low-income residents.
With more than 100,000 residents, Cambridge is currently the largest city in the state to have a bag ordinance. The total number of Massachusetts municipalities with some form of ordinance is rapidly approaching 40 and the state has become one of the most active fronts in the national plastic bag fight. There has of course been some dissent, but this trend has yet to inspire the kind of fierce debate seen in other states — and Cambridge residents have reportedly been receptive.
Now that Boston is moving closer to considering its own ordinance, the tenor of this debate could soon reflect what has happened in other large markets. It took years for New York City to pass a five-cent fee on single-use bags, which has since been threatened by the state legislature, and a state law in California faced instant opposition.
Many of the industry groups that back these challenges are also promoting the benefits of recycling programs for the bags in states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina and Connecticut. At the same time, Seattle recently announced that it's seen a 50% reduction in bag usage since a 2012 ban and major retailers in England have seen an 85% reduction in the first six months of the country's own ban. With both sides claiming victory, this debate is likely far from over in Massachusetts and beyond.