Boston’s Plastic Bag Ban Represents a ‘Cultural Shift’

'Cleaner, greener city' is the Beantown goal beginning Friday, December 14 — move represents a 'big step forward'

Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Beantown is focused on bags today — plastic bags, that is.

Phase one of the citywide ban on plastic bags in Boston, Massachusetts, begins Friday, December 14, with inspections first zeroing in on larger, more industrial-sized retail stores.

The first phase of the new ordinance prohibits the use of plastic “checkout bags” in particular, for stores that are 20,000 square feet or larger.

Smaller stores of 10,000 square feet will need to comply by April 1, 2019; stores smaller than 10,000 square feet will too face inspection starting July 1.

The punishment for violation of the new policy is as follows: A retail location’s first offense will warrant a warning. Its second will warrant a $50 fine. And its third will warrant a $100 fine.

Additional violations will continue to result in $100 fines.

Signed a year ago by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the ban on plastic retail bags received unanimous approval by the City Council.

Although the mayor expressed his concern over the new regulation’s possible impact on the poor, he ultimately supported it due to the environmental benefits.

The plastic bag ban is “an opportunity to be good environmental stewards and responsible neighbors,” he said in a statement earlier this week.

Further, the policy is “a big step forward in our work to cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution, and create a cleaner, greener city.”

The bags that will be required beginning December 14 must be recyclable, compostable, or reusable — and will entail a five-cent charge upon checkout.

“Our goal is to reduce litter and pollution. We want to protect the ocean our waterways. We aim to also reduce greenhouse gasses and reduce solid waste in the waste stream,” the city stated on its website.

“It’s a cultural shift because we’re so used to not bringing bags in to shop,” Inspectional Services Commissioner William Christopher Jr. told the Boston Herald.

If companies feel as if the new regulations will cause certain difficulties, or if they wish to use their already existing supply of plastic bags first before switching over to the more environmentally friendly alternative, they can apply for a temporary exemption.

“We want to protect the ocean our waterways. We aim to also reduce greenhouse gasses and reduce solid waste in the waste stream.”

The new ordinance applies only to checkout bags — so plastic used for newspapers, produce, laundry supplies, and trash will remain acceptable.

Several other towns, cities, and countries have already implemented certain bans or additional taxes on plastic bags, some of which include Seattle, Washington; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, California; the United Kingdom; and Australia.

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