Healey: State agencies to stop buying plastic bottles
Symbolic move could kickstart a broader debate about plastic waste
GOV. MAURA HEALEY said she plans to issue an executive order later this week barring state agencies from purchasing single-use plastic bottles, a move that gives new life to a long-simmering debate on Beacon Hill about the best ways to reduce and recycle waste materials.
At a conference in New York on Monday hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, Healey delivered a short speech in which she said Massachusetts would become the first state to adopt a procurement ban for single-use plastic bottles.
“Plastic production and plastic waste are among the leading threats to our oceans, our climate, and environmental justice,” she said during a session on ocean conservation. “In government, we have an obligation to stop contributing to this damage and chart a better path forward.”
The move is largely symbolic – the state purchases approximately 100,000 single-use plastic bottles per year, officials said — but it signals Healey’s desire to kickstart a broader debate. “Our natural world recognizes no political divisions; and neither should our work to protect it,” she said. “So I offer Massachusetts’ partnership, and I invite leaders across America and around the world to join together and take action – for the health of our oceans and the long-term wellbeing of our people.”
Healey’s action drew applause from environmental activists, but the International Bottled Water Association said a procurement ban was the wrong approach. “A ban such as this one is a shortsighted action that has negative health and environmental consequences and is not in the public interest,” said Jill Culora, vice president of communications at the association.
Culora said a 2022 national survey indicated that if bottled water was not available 70 percent of respondents would choose a less healthy drink, while the remaining 30 percent would drink water in other ways – a third said from a water dispenser, a third said they would drink filtered tap water, 6 percent said they would drink unfiltered tap water, and 6 percent said they would drink water from a public water fountain.
The association also said plastic bottled water containers represent only 1.58 percent of all food plastic containers, and eliminating all plastic use would curb ocean plastics by a quarter of a percent.
“The latest research on microplastic particles in oceans reveals that they primarily originate from wastewater from washing machines—not bottled water production,” the association said, citing a report in the journal Nature. The report said microplastic particles are released the the washing of clothing made from synthetic blends.
The association also said a plastic water bottle water has the least environmental impact of any packaged drink. It said a bottled water container weighs less than half as much as a plastic soft drink container, which means less environmental harm from producing and disposing of the container.
Mara Shulman, an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, called single-use plastics a “scourge on our environment and our communities” and said Healey’s ban is a step toward making Massachusetts a leader in fighting the “plastic crisis.”
Janet Domenitz, the executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, or MassPIRG, said she welcomed Healey’s decision to emphasize reducing waste rather than recycling it.
Domenitz said she was surprised Healey is seeking to ban the procurement of all single-use plastic bottles. She said it’s fairly easy for consumers to move away from plastic water bottles, since water can be consumed using reusable containers. But she said eliminating other plastic containers would pose a greater challenge. “That’s wild,” she said.In 2013, Concord became the first municipality in the country to ban bottled water containers less than 1 liter. Several other municipalities have since followed suit.
Domenitz said the Legislature should follow Healey’s lead by banning plastic bottles, polystyrene (Styrofoam), and single-use plastic bags and by updating the bottle bill and establishing a law requiring container producers to take greater responsibility for disposal of the products they produce.