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Somerville plastic bag ban begins next week


Start planning an alternate way to get your groceries from the store to your home, Somerville residents — because the city’s new plastic bag ban is set to begin next week for many businesses.

The ordinance, which was passed in November by the Board of Aldermen, takes effect on Sept. 1, according to the city’s website.

The ordinance “aims to protect the marine environment, advance solid waste reduction, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect waterways,” according to a statement from city officials.

The rollout of the new policy will be staggered, with the city setting its sights on larger businesses in the area first. Stores with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space will need to conform to the rules beginning at the start of next month. All other retail establishments, including restaurants, pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, and liquor stores will be subject to the ordinance beginning Dec. 1.

“The extended period for applicability of this ordinance is designed to give businesses ample time to use ... their current inventory of plastic bags,” officials said of the pending changes.


The ban applies to single-use shopping bags typically given to customers at checkout. It does not include smaller plastic bags used for produce at the grocery store, bags used at the dry cleaners to cover garments, or newspaper bags, according to officials.

The city is encouraging residents and visitors to use reusable canvas bags to carry goods. Paper bags will also still be available at establishments.

Any business found in violation of the rules will be given a warning. Subsequent infractions could lead to fines.

Somerville joins the ranks of other municipalities in the area that have similarly limited the use of thin plastic bags. Neighboring Cambridge’s “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance went into effect in March. Unlike Somerville’s ordinance, residents there must pay 10 cents per bag, if they don’t bring their own, at the point of sale.


Brookline has had a ban on plastic bags since 2013.

The fight against the use of disposable plastic bags isn’t Somerville’s first effort to help clean the environment. In 2014, officials began enforcing a ban on some polystyrene foam products.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.