BOSTON — At the November 29th Boston City Council meeting, Councilors unanimously passed an ordinance sponsored by Councilor Matt O’Malley and Council President Michelle Wu aimed at reducing plastic bag litter in neighborhoods and increasing reusable bags.
The legislation would ban flimsy, single-use checkout bags at retail establishments, so that stores would instead offer recyclable, reusable, or compostable bags at checkout. These paper bags or thicker reusable plastic bags must be offered for at least a 5-cent fee kept by the stores in order to help small businesses offset transition costs. Bags without handles would not be subject to a fee, so that small paper bags such as those used by pharmacies to hold medication bottles would not be charged. Customers would be able to opt out of all fees by bringing their own bags.
“We all see flimsy plastic bags left on our streets and stuck in our streets and storm drains, polluting our waterways and green spaces, and ultimately getting tangled up in the equipment our recycling contractor uses everyday. We as taxpayers are spending money cleaning up flimsy plastic bags that are littering our neighborhoods and are terrible for the environment,” said Council President Wu. “This ordinance balances the need to address an environmental concern with considerations for small businesses and consumers. During the next year we will be reaching out to organizations and communities in every neighborhood to make sure that all Bostonians know what changes this makes and have access to free reusable bags.”
The ordinance now goes to Mayor Walsh for his approval, and the provisions would take effect one year after that approval, in order to have time for community outreach, education about the new policy, and distribution of some free reusable bags to seniors and others who need them. 59 other cities and towns in Massachusetts already have similar plastic bag legislation in place.