By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Where debates in many neighboring towns have raged, Hudson residents have largely welcomed a ban on plastic bags since it sailed through a town meeting vote last November.
Passed by a solid margin, the ban will add Hudson to an already 130 name-long list of Massachusetts cities and towns to forbid plastic bags within their borders. The town’s take on this now common legislation mandates local merchants completely “phase out” their plastic bags in favor of recycled paper or reusable bags.
“I’m pretty happy,” says Andrea Silva Roberts, a Hudson resident who already uses paper bags through a curbside grocery pickup program. “It’s a tiny step in the right direction of giving my kids a better world to bring their children into,”
Aside from the state-wide proliferation of similar bans, on a more local level, Hudson will join may of its neighbors who already have similar by-laws in effect.
Shrewsbury enacted their ban in 2016 as the first Central Mass. community to do so. A landslide of followers then came in the years afterward as Westborough and Northborough both successfully enacted bans in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
While some, particularly in Shrewsbury, argued even in letters to the editor published by the Community Advocate that the ban there hurt local businesses, Hudson officials say they’ve heard little of that argument.
“The reaction has been pretty positive,” Conservation Agent Pam Helinek said shortly before the November town meeting. “There really hasn’t been much pushback at all from the business community.”
Indeed, all three of Hudson’s major chain grocery stores already have locations in towns with bag bans in effect.
Contacted for this article, managers at each of those stores deferred to their corporate offices for any comments, though. No one from those offices could be reached by phone by press time.
As local shoppers collect their last plastic bags from Hudson stores before June 1, some have voiced frustration about no longer having plastic bags to use to collect pet waste. Others, including Roberts, noted that they cannot carry as many paper bags in particular at a given time as they can with plastic bags.
Still others raised doubts about the merit of the ban with some in a large Facebook group for Hudson residents noting that the ban contradicts past environmentalist arguments.
“I remember when paper bags were pretty much universal and people demanded the use of plastic bags to save the trees and the planet,” said one person in a Hudson resident. “These people clearly have no idea what they are talking about.”
In reality, it is a complicated question as one New York Times article from March of last year noted. Paper bags do take more energy to produce than plastic ones and thus have a larger carbon footprint. They also, however, decompose much faster than plastic bags which can remain harmful in an environment for over a century.
“Bring your own bags,” said another person in the same Hudson resident group, proposing an answer to the paper or plastic question. “…It’s not that difficult.”
Hudson’s by-law takes effect on June 1 but then may, soon after, be preempted by a state ban that the Massachusetts House of Representatives is currently mulling.
Regardless of who ends up responsible for the ban going forward though, Roberts is happy to see bags on the way out of her area checkout lines. As the holiday season in particular ends, after all, she’s excited to see the trees in her environment bare.
“No more ornamental plastic bags stuck in high tree branches,” she said.