City ban on plastic bags effective on Friday

A city ordinance passed last year limiting plastic bag usage in Boston goes into effect on Friday (Dec. 14). The law mandates that all bags issued by retail stores must be either reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Establishments can no longer stock single-use plastic bags with handles. The ordinance does not apply to plastic bags without handles, such as those used for meat and produce.

As an incentive for customers to bring their own bags for their shopping, the ordinance also states that all reusable bags must be sold for at least five cents.

Stephanie Acquario, the city’s plastic bag reduction coordinator, has been making the rounds at community meetings across the city in the lead up to Friday’s deadline. So far, she said, feedback from city residents has been encouraging.

“I’ve been to over 25 community meetings now, and overall the reaction to the ordinance has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

According to Mass Green Network, Boston is the latest of 88 towns and cities across the Commonwealth to enact a plastic bag ordinance. Acquario pointed out that Cambridge “has been doing this for two years now.”

The two-pronged approach of banning plastic bags and setting a price tag for reusables sets the Boston plan apart from others, said Acquario. “We felt like coupling those two and modeling ourselves after Cambridge’s successful bag ordinance was the best for us,” she explained.

She noted that identical measures in Washington, D.C., have led to a 90 percent decrease in plastic bag usage. With Boston now on board, she expects the entire state to soon join in the fight against plastic bag waste.

“With this step, we hope to be really setting an example for other big cities in state,” she said.

Violators of the plastic bag ordinance— which was spearheaded by City Councillors Matt O’Malley and Michelle Wu— will be hit with an initial $50 fine, followed by $100 fines for all subsequent offenses. However, retailers can apply for a temporary exemption if they need more time to get rid of their existing supply of single-use bags.

For more details on the ordinance and to apply for exemption, visit boston.gov/plastic-bags.