Newton mayor gives stores until Sept. 1 to comply with bans on plastic bags, polystyrene

A woman in Boston Common carrying plastic shopping bags in hand.
A woman in Boston Common carrying plastic shopping bags in hand.David L. Ryan

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced Monday that local merchants will have until Sept. 1 to comply with a city ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

Fuller’s decision followed a July 10 state order that rescinded a statewide ban on reusable bags at retail that had been implemented as a public health measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Department of Public Health had previously ordered retailers in March to stop using reusable bags as part of efforts to slow the coronavirus’s spread.

Dr. Monica Bharel, the state commissioner of public health, rescinded that ban earlier this month. The move also had the effect of allowing 139 cities and towns, including Newton, to enforce their own local rules banning retailers from using disposable plastic bags.


Janet Domenitz, the executive director of MASSPIRG, praised the state’s decision as a “home run -- good for the environment, for public health, for reducing waste, and for protecting both workers and shoppers.”

But the sweeping change was not well publicized -- Bharel issued her order on a Friday, and by Monday, retailers across Massachusetts were scrambling to comply. Business owners and retail groups have asked local municipalities for leeway in complying with the measure.

In a statement, Fuller cited the lack of warning about the change in her decision.

“Recognizing that there was no advance notice of the statewide order rescission, the City of Newton will delay enforcement of its plastic bag and polystyrene ordinances until Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, to give retailers time to adjust to this change,” Fuller said.

Fuller announced the decision after Greg Reibman, the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber’s president, asked Newton officials Saturday to grant merchants more time to use up some of their stock of disposable bags and be able to resupply themselves with paper bags.


The Newton ordinances ban plastic bags, polystyrene containers, and require a 10-cent minimum bag fee for customers who choose to purchase a paper or reusable bag from a store, Fuller said.

John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.