proposed by the Somerville Board of Aldermen and passed on November 24, 2015, goes into effect on September 1, 2016

By reducing the number of plastic bags that are being used, discarded and littered, and by promoting the use of reusable checkout bags and recyclable paper bags by retail establishments located in the City, the purpose of this ordinance aims to protect the marine environment, advance solid waste reduction, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect waterways.
Important Dates

When this ordinance is in effect, retail establishments will no longer be permitted to give customers plastic, single-use shopping bags at the checkout point.
Businesses with more than 10,000 sf of floor space must comply by Sept. 1, 2016.

All other retail establishments must comply by Dec. 1, 2016.

If a retail establishment is found to be non-compliant, the first violation will result in a warning. Subsequent violations will carry a fine.

More Information & Information Sessions

The FAQ below includes more information about complying with the ordinance.
The City will be hosting drop-in information sessions for business owners to prepare for the ordinance going into effect and get questions answered:
All sessions will be held in the Aldermanic Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.
Tuesday, May 10th, 10-11 a.m.

Thursday, May 26th, 5-6 p.m.

Tuesday, September 13th, 10-11 a.m.

Thursday, September 29th, 6-7 p.m.

For more information about the plastic bag ordinance in Somerville, please contact 311. If you have questions regarding enforcement of this ordinance or other regulations, please contact the Inspectional Services Department, Health Division at (617) 625-6600 x4331.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are plastic shopping bags a problem?
The Somerville Board of Aldermen passed this ordinance in November 2015 in order to reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags. Disposable plastic shopping bags can turn into waste and litter. Lightweight plastic bags act like a parachute and are easily blown into trees and bodies of water; these flyaway bags can harm wildlife and block drainage. In addition, plastic bags are made from natural gas and petroleum, which are nonrenewable natural resources.
Who does the ordinance apply to?

The ordinance applies to any commercial business, whether for or not for profit, including, but not limited to, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, liquor stores, seasonal and temporary businesses, jewelry stores, and household goods stores. If a restaurant provides a bag for take-out, delivery, or food to-go from an in-house meal, the ordinance applies to those bags.
When does the ordinance take effect?
For retail establishments over 10,000 square feet of floor space: September 1, 2016

For all other retail establishments under : December 1, 2016

The extended period for applicability of this ordinance is designed to give businesses ample time to use down their current inventory of plastic bags.
How will the ordinance be enforced?

During regular inspections or if a complaint is received, City inspectors will confirm compliance with the ordinance. If a retail establishment is found to be non-compliant, the first violation will result in a warning. Subsequent violations will carry a fine: $50.00 for the second offense, $100.00 for the third and higher offense.
What should I use instead of plastic bags?

All retail establishments should provide reusable bags or recyclable paper bags. Please contact your supply vendor to determine which alternative(s) may work best for your business. Click here to view a list of vendors that offer compliant bags.
Can retail establishments offer a discount to customers bringing their own reusable bag?

Yes! In fact, we strongly encourage this to further incentivize waste reduction. We also encourage retail establishments to provide reusable bags for sale to customers. Investing in reusable bags is a great way to help limit the amount of natural resources used to produce single-use bags.
Does this ordinance apply to non-checkout plastic bags?

No, this ordinance applies only to bags given out at the point of sale. Per the ordinance, the following bags are exempt:
Bags, whether plastic or not, in which loose produce or products are placed by the consumer to deliver such items to the point of sale or check out area of the retail establishment;

Laundry or dry cleaner bags;

Newspaper bags; or

Bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish, whether prepackaged or not, to prevent or contain moisture.

What’s the plan for informing customers of the ordinance?

While the ordinance applies to businesses, the City will be conducting outreach to residents and customers about the ordinance and encouraging the use of reusable bags. The City will inform residents via news outlets, the City website, the City newsletter, social media, City Cable TV, and this webpage.

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