Somerville Info Sessions on Plastic Bag Ban

Retailers invited to learn how to comply with ordinance taking effect this year.
SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville will host four informational sessions aimed at helping businesses learn how to comply with an ordinance that, starting later this year, will ban plastic bags at checkout counters.
The Q&A sessions, like the ordinance itself, will come in two waves. The first two are scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, from 10 to 11 a.m., and Thursday, May 26, from 5 to 6 p.m. The second two will be held after the first phase of the ordinance takes effect. They are scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 10 to 11 a.m., and Thursday, Sept. 29, from 6 to 7 p.m. All sessions will take place in the second-floor Aldermen’s chambers at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.
The Board of Aldermen, citing concerns about dangers that plastic bags pose to wildlife and the environment, passed the ordinance last year. It takes effect beginning Sept. 1, 2016, when larger retail establishments (10,000 square feet or more) will no longer be allowed to give customers plastic bags at the checkout counter. The ordinance becomes effective for all retailers on Dec. 1. The two-tiered rollout is designed to give smaller independent businesses such as mom-and-pop shops, extra time to exhaust their inventory of plastic bags before switching to alternatives such as paper.
At the meetings, City officials will let business owners know how the ordinance will be implemented, what kinds of plastic bags will still be allowed, and what alternative bags are available. To assist business owners, the city, with the help of the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, has compiled a list of vendors of sustainable bags here:
“We’ll address specific questions that business owners have for their own circumstances,” said Maxwell MacCarthy, the city’s Urban Revitalization Specialist. “We’ll guide them through the options for their specific type of business and the specific type of bags they now use.’” The city is also coordinating additional outreach efforts to business owners through the Chamber of Commerce and Main Streets programs.
The ban will affect only bags given at checkout. Plastic bags will still be allowed for produce and bulk items within a store. Plastic laundry, dry cleaning, and newspaper bags are also exempt. Though the ordinance is not targeted at consumers, the city encourages shoppers to bring reusable bags to stores and urges shops to hand out recyclable bags with their logos. “We hope this aligns with customer preferences around making green purchasing decisions,” MacCarthy said.
Individuals with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication, written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, in order to access the programs and activities of the City of Somerville or to attend meetings, should contact the City’s ADA Coordinator, Betsy Allen, at 617-625-6600 x2323 or
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