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Brookline plastic bag ban starts Sunday

Polystyrene containers also will be off-limits

Scott Murphy of Dunkin’ Donuts with the new-style cups.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe STaff/Globe Staff

Brookline’s bans on disposable plastic bags and polystyrene containers kick in Sunday, but changes may be phased in gradually at retail stores and restaurants.

Alan Balsam, Brookline’s director of public health and human services, said this week he is allowing retailers affected by the ban on disposable plastic bags to use up their current inventories before switching to acceptable alternative bags.

Balsam said he is also going to wait to enforce the ban of polystyrene food and beverage containers until the beginning of January because permitting for food service establishments is done in December.

“After Jan. 1, what we’ll be doing is warnings and more education,” Balsam said.


Brookline Town Meeting approved the bans in November 2012, citing concerns that the products are not good for the environment. The bans were scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1 of this year, giving businesses time to prepare.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Nantucket has banned plastic bags for years, and the towns of Manchester-by-the-Sea and Great Barrington approved plastic bag bans in the spring. In May, Somerville approved a ban on polystyrene containers that will take effect in May 2014.

In Brookline, about 70 businesses will be affected by the ban on disposable plastic bags and about 350 food service establishments will be affected by the ban on polystyrene containers.

Health officials have held informational sessions to help businesses make the transition, but Balsam said some businesses have large inventories of polystyrene containers, which are often used for takeout food orders. Finding appropriate and affordable alternatives can be a challenge.

As a result, Balsam said he expects a number of Brookline businesses to request a six-month extension to comply with the polystyrene container ban. One of the businesses Balsam said he expects will seek an extension is Dunkin’ Donuts, which has rolled out a new cup in Brookline to comply with the ban, but is still working on finding a lid that will comply.


The ban on disposable plastic bags will affect any retail space with at least 2,500 square feet or stores that have at least three locations in Brookline that when combined have that amount of space. Any retail pharmacy with at least two locations under the same ownership in Brookline will also be prohibited from providing disposable, plastic check-out bags, as will any supermarket with annual gross sales of more than $1 million.

Balsam said that while he has told retailers they can use up their current stock of disposable plastic bags before switching to acceptable alternatives, most grocery stores and pharmacies are on board with the bag ban. Some smaller retailers may have large inventories of the bags to use up, but Balsam said he expects most of them will comply by January.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.