Massachusetts Food Association

Request to Suspend Local Plastic Bag Bans

Friday, March 20, 2020  




In the wake of the present state emergency declared by the Governor of Massachusetts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Massachusetts Food Association respectfully requests a temporary suspension of all local Massachusetts city and state ordinances that ban plastic bags to avoid the spread of the virus for the following reasons:


·       Food store employees may be exposed to the virus through packing customers’ reusable bags.  Many cities and towns have banned plastic bags to encourage the use of various types of reusable bags, but these bags could potentially spread infectious diseases, particularly if the bags are used by those who may be exposed, or are in homes with persons having COVID-19.  It is recommended that all reusable bags should be kept clean.

·       There is an increasing shortage of paper bags in stock in the past few weeks.  Many supermarket suppliers get paper bags from overseas, including China and other exposed suppliers who cannot keep up with demand.  The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused a “perfect storm” where the supply is low and the demand is high due to increased shopping activity.

·       Single-use plastic bags provide the best and most hygienic method of carrying food and other perishable items.  As other food retailers such as Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts take precautions to protect their employees from contamination by limiting multiple use containers being brought back into the store, a temporary lift of bans would protect employees and customers who do not want to be exposed to personal items of others, including reusable bags brought from home.

·       The request to suspend communities’ plastic bag bans is temporary.  While MFA has been developing legislation to support a statewide plastic bag ban, time is of the essence to immediately suspend any city or town rule that bans the use of single-use plastic bags.  Time is of the essence for cities and towns to act to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.


As a result, we respectfully request that cities and towns support a temporary suspension of a city or town plastic bag ban until the state of emergency is lifted in Massachusetts.  This is an issue of critical importance to limit the potential exposure, particularly for the employees in our industry and their customers, to the COVID-19 virus.


The Massachusetts Food Association represents the supermarket and grocery industry in Massachusetts, including over 500 retail food store locations and the non-retail food sector of the Commonwealth.

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