The City of Newton is currently considering an expansion of the 2018 Sustainable Packaging & Plastics Reduction Ordinance which removed the dispensing of foam polystyrene take out containers, foam polystyrene packing peanuts, and plastic stirrers from Newton food establishments and businesses. The expanded ordinance would eliminate a greater number of single use plastic items that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted, including black plastic take out containers. Single use plastic water bottles would also no longer be sold in Newton–an item that is in theory recyclable but in reality only about 20% are actually recycled. (See the February 9 presentation of what’s in the proposed ordinance.)

Newton City Councilor Alison wrote a letter to the editor in support of the expanded Sustainable Packaging & Plastics Reduction Ordinance which was published in the Fig City News on March 24, 2023:


Walk any street, sidewalk or park and you will find littered plastic waste, including bottles, packaging and even floss sticks. Plastic is truly everywhere, even in our bodies, in the fish we eat and in the stomachs of marine mammals. It is poisoning seabirds, the marine environment and ourselves.

The chemicals found in plastic are carcinogens and hormone disrupters and cause health issues across its lifecycle from production through final disposal. If we do nothing, plastic production is expected to triple by 2060. The plastic crisis is truly a toxic chemical crisis. A cap on plastic production is desperately needed.

The recent disastrous train derailment in E. Palestine Ohio is an example of the price we pay for our reliance on plastics. The train was carrying carcinogenic vinyl chloride. This chemical is used to make polyvinylchloride plastic (PVC).

Single-use plastics are particularly pernicious. They account for approximately 40% of current plastic production. Often a product is used one or twice and thrown away. Fortunately, there are alternatives. The City of Newton’s Sustainable Materials Management Commission and several City Councilors including myself are supporting the Sustainable Packaging & Plastics Reduction Ordinance which is before the Programs and Services Committee on Wednesday 3/22. This ordinance will start the transition away from single-use plastics by requiring food service ware to be reusable, compostable, or recyclable. It will also prohibit single-use water bottles, balloon releases and require food establishments to dispense straws, food ware and single-use condiment packages only by request.

The City of Newton can be a leader by setting the example for a more sustainable, environmentally friendly community that other communities and the Commonwealth can emulate. Remember, reduce, reuse, repurpose, compost and recycle.

Alison M. Leary
Newton City Council