Boston Moving Forward On Plastic Bag Ban

In a move that has implications for the promotional products industry, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has signed off on an ordinance that will make Beantown the next major American city to clampdown on single-use plastic bags.

On Friday, Walsh put his signature to the local legislation, which Boston’s City Council had previously passed in 11-0 vote.  Set to take effect next autumn, the plastic bag ban could help spur sales of branded totes and other reusable bags in the city of 673,000 people with a metro area population of 4.6 million.

Following City Council’s approving vote, it remained an open question whether or not Walsh would ink his name on the ordinance. In the past, Walsh had expressed opposition to a version of a proposed plastic bag prohibition, believing it would heap greater economic burden on low-income households and small businesses, EcoWatch reported

Still, fears harbored by proponents of the ban will have largely dissipated now that Walsh signed the ordinance, which will require businesses within Boston’s city limits to charge a fee of at least five cents per bag to shoppers who want a thicker, compostable plastic bag. Also, shoppers could opt to incur a five-cent charge for bigger paper bags with handles.

The aim of the ordinance is to combat the pollution and environmental degradation that single-use plastic bags cause, proponents say. In addition to littering streets, parks and neighborhoods, an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic trash – bags and more – befouls the oceans annually. The waste asphyxiates marine life and impacts ocean ecosystems. It can even disrupt the food chain, environmentalists say. 

"It's a fantastic first step to a larger zero-waste mentality," Kirstie Pecci, director of the Zero Waste Project at the Conservation Law Foundation, told WBUR about Boston’s plastic bag ban.

Lobbying groups for plastic bags and paper bags have criticized the Boston plastic bag ordinance. Novolex, which makes plastic and paper shopping bags, even alleged the ordinance is unconstitutional. Some retailers have joined in the disapproval, saying the prohibitions favor online companies while hurting mom and pop stores.

“This is just another example of too many recent government intrusions, which hit brick-and-mortar stores, but totally ignores competition online,” Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told the Boston Herald. “We can’t serve our customers the way they want (to) be served and give them the packaging for the goods they’re buying in stores for free, yet all this packaging, all this trash hitting front doorsteps for online sellers, that’s totally untouched by this kind of government intrusion.”