Newton’s Board of Aldermen has unanimously passed a ban on thin plastic checkout bags, meaning the estimated half-million such bags that aldermen say are used by shoppers at the local Wegmans and Shaw’s each month will be a thing of the past.
The ban, sponsored by Alderwomen Alison Leary and Emily Norton, was passed last week and will go into effect in six months. It seeks not only to reduce the number of plastic bags that are used, discarded, and littered, but also to promote use of reusable, rather than paper, bags.
“It is particularly important for a community such as Newton to take this step, as we are viewed as a leader within Massachusetts,” said Norton. “I hope and indeed expect that this will begin a domino effect that ideally will end with a statewide ban on these convenient yet viciously destructive bags.”
Alderwoman Ruthanne Fuller proposed postponing the vote so a charge on paper bags could be included.
“All you are doing is driving the vast majority of people who now use plastic to paper,” she said. But the board voted to move ahead with the ban now, and to reevaluate in a year whether the measure is inflating the use of paper bags.
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good here,” Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan said in urging colleagues to pass the plastic bag ban without changes.
The ban targets large supermarkets and retailers with stores of at least 3,500 square feet, or with two or more locations in the city, and bags that are given out at the point of sale only. It does not include plastic bags used to carry produce or other items to the point of sale, or dry-cleaning and newspaper bags.
In addition, paper bags given out must be 100 percent recyclable, and made with at least 40 percent “post-consumer recycled content.”
Establishments in violation of the new law will receive a warning for a first offense and will then be charged up to $300 for a fourth and subsequent offense.
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.