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Boston’s plastic bag ban begins Friday. Here’s what you need to know

Last year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags in Boston, after the City Council unanimously approved the measure. On Friday, the new law will take effect — and that means businesses will no longer be allowed to dole out those disposable shopping bags typically given to customers.

So, what happens when you stroll into a shop to buy something? Here’s a quick breakdown of what customers can expect:

What kind of bag will I be getting when I shop?

The new rules stipulate that retail establishments will have to use alternate bags when packing up goods. That means people will be going home with reusable bags, recycled paper bags, or compostable bags that they’ll have to purchase. Or, they can bring their own.


What about other smaller bags? Will those be eliminated, too?

Not according to the mayor’s office. As part of the ordinance, several types of bags are exempt from the new rules. Produce bags, bags used for dry-cleaning, newspaper bags, and bags used to wrap frozen foods will still be available.

Let’s say I go to a take-out restaurant — will they put my order in a plastic bag?

Nope. Sorry. According to the city’s website, “all bags at restaurants given to customers are subject to the guidelines in the ordinance. They have to be either recycled paper, compostable, or reusable.”

OK, so what’s the catch? Is this going to cost me money?

Pretty much. Shoppers will have a few choices: They can bring their own reusable bags or they can pay a fee — no less than 5 cents per bag — for either a thicker, compostable plastic bag or a larger paper bag with handles. Stores would collect the fees to help offset the cost of using the more expensive bags. “Charges for checkout bags will appear separately on the receipt,” according to the ordinance.


I’m a business owner. This is going to be tough. Are there any exceptions?

Yes. While officials gave businesses a year to prepare for the changes, any business that believes this will be a hardship can apply for a temporary exemption. Businesses only qualify if there’s no reasonable alternative to plastic bags.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com.