Appeared as a Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe, October 30, 2023

Cities, towns are doing their part. Beacon Hill should lead on.

An executive order issued by Governor Maura Healey this fall banned state offices from buying single-use plastic bottles. Advocates are looking to Beacon Hill to make more widespread progress against waste.

Thank you for Sabrina Shankman’s well-documented article on our state’s struggle to address the environmental impact of single-use plastics (“As plastic becomes a dirtier word, lawmakers look to curb single uses”).

It is ironic that Massachusetts, which has led with progressive initiatives on climate mitigation, has lagged so far behind other states in regard to management of single-use plastic waste.

Perhaps attention on Beacon Hill to reducing single-use plastics has flown under the radar because of its relatively minor impact compared with the transportation, power generation, and home heating sectors. As state Senator Michael Barrett said, “Plastics, and waste-reduction in general, has been an orphan” in our overall state climate mitigation plans.

Cities and towns are already doing their part to move the needle, with 159 of them having some form of plastic bag ban. A strong argument for reducing single-use plastics is that it is low-hanging fruit. Since these initiatives would not require a significant capital investment on the part of residents, as electric vehicles, heat pumps, and solar panels do, a ban would have an immediate impact on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.

We are also almost 10 years removed from the failed referendum on expanding our outdated bottle bill. Judging from the experiences of other states, a 10 cent deposit and an expanded list of containers subject to return would yield almost immediate results in increased recycling rates and less litter.

Hopefully, passage of these measures also would nudge public awareness that we must change some of our daily behaviors and habits in order to bring about a more sustainable planet. The time is long overdue to act.

Paul Goldberg

A Member of the Zero Waste Arlington Committee

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