Clearing a hurdle to making Boston cleaner: Disposable plastic bags now barred by law

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

The city of Boston’s new plastic bag ordinance is a big step forward in our work to cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution, and create a cleaner, greener city. Now that the new ordinance is in effect, stores in Boston will no longer provide plastic checkout bags to customers. 

We have been distributing reusable bags and signage throughout neighborhoods and main streets about the new law. And we’ve been asking people to help by reminding neighbors and friends to bring a reusable bag when shopping in the city.

The switch to reusable bags is an opportunity for Boston’s citizens to be good environmental stewards and responsible neighbors. Single-use plastic bags have a big impact on the environment. They often end up in our streets and gutters, vacant lots, and trees. They’re harmful to our marine life and pollute our waterways. Reusable bags help to reduce waste and carbon pollution.  As a city committed to being carbon free and moving toward zero waste, this new law is a big step in the right direction. 

So how will you carry your groceries home? Moving forward, stores will provide recyclable paper that is compostable, or reusable bags to customers, at a starting price of 5 cents per bag. This charge goes back to the businesses to help them cover the cost of new, sustainable checkout bags. As a customer, you can avoid the charge by remembering to bring a reusable bag whenever you shop. 

A concession: Businesses will be able to use their existing inventory of plastic bags by applying for an exemption to the city’s Inspectional Services Department. 

Switching to reusable bags is an important milestone, but it’s just one of the ways that you can help reduce waste. You can also use the city’s trash app, which allows you to check which materials are recyclable, and reminds you of your collection schedule. You can learn more about upcoming hazardous waste drop-off days and composting in the city at boston.gov/trash-and-recycling-guide. 

As a sustainable city, we’re committed to reducing our waste and the carbon pollution that causes climate change. We’re exploring ways to support waste reduction as well as increase opportunities for repair, reuse, recycling, composting, and remanufacturing. Switching to reusable bags gets us closer to that goal. 

I’m proud of our progress and I know there’s much more work to be done – but first, let’s all remember to bring our reusable bags with us this holiday season and remind our neighbors to do the same.

Our Office of Neighborhood Services will be distributing reusable bags to residents, and bags will also be available for pick up at Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) locations. Businesses and residents can learn more about the city’s plastic bag ordinance at boston.gov/plastic-bags or by calling 311, our constituent hotline. 

For more information on our Climate Action Plan, please visit boston.gov/environment.

Martin J. Walsh is the mayor of Boston.

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