Newton City Council Considers Stricter Plastic Bag Ordinance

The Newton City Council is considering amendments to our plastic bag reduction ordinance that would remove the exemption for small businesses, update the definition of a reusable bag, and add a fee on all checkout bags (including paper bags) at the point of sale. The goal of the ordinance is to reduce the use of disposable or single-use checkout bags at retail establishments and to promote the use of reusable bags at checkout. The benefits would include protection of the marine environment, reduction of solid waste, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and protection of waterways. 

Proposed Amendments to the Plastic Bag Reduction (AKA “Bring Your Own Bag”) Ordinance include the following:

  1. If any store provides a checkout bag to customers, the bag must be either a recyclable paper bag or a reusable checkout bag. A reusable checkout bag is defined as: “a sewn bag with stitched handles that (1) can carry 25 pounds over a distance of 300 feet; (2) is either (a) made of cloth or other machine washable fabric; or (b) made of plastic other than polyethylene (HDPE, LDPE, PETE, etc.) or polyvinyl chloride that is durable, non-toxic, and generally considered a food-grade material that is more than 4 mils thick.” One mil equals 0.0254 millimeter.
  2. A store that provides any type of checkout bag shall sell them for no less than ten cents per bag. All money collected will be retained by the store.
  3. Any charge for a checkout bag shall be separately stated on a receipt provided to the customer at the time of sale and called the “checkout bag charge”. A checkout bag does not include: a paper bag given to customers at the pharmacy for medication; any bag without handles that’s used to protect items from damaging or contaminating others, such as protecting wine bottles or vegetables; or a bag used to contain unwrapped food.