Government Health & Environment

Mayor’s Column: Reducing Disposable Bags in Boston

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

The City of Boston’s new plastic bag ordinance is a big step forward in our work to cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution, and create a cleaner, greener city. When the new ordinance goes into effect on December 14, 2018, stores in Boston will no longer provide plastic checkout bags to customers. Ahead of the change, we’re making sure everyone has the information they need. We are answering questions and distributing reusable bags and signage throughout neighborhoods and main streets. And we’re asking you to help by reminding neighbors and friends to bring a reusable bag when shopping in the city.

Here’s why we’re encouraging everyone to switch to reusable bags: It’s an opportunity to be good environmental stewards and responsible neighbors. Single-use plastic bags have a big impact on the environment. Plastic bags often end up in our streets and gutters, vacant lots, and trees. They’re harmful to our marine life and pollute our waterways. You can use reusable bags time and time again without tossing them in the trash, which helps to reduce waste and carbon pollution.  As a city committed to being carbon free and moving toward zero waste, this is a big step in the right direction.

So, how will you carry your groceries home? Moving forward, stores will provide recyclable paper, compostable, or reusable bags to customers, starting at 5 cents per bag. This charge goes back to the businesses to help them cover the cost of new sustainable checkout bags. As a customer, you can avoid the charge by remembering to bring a reusable bag whenever you shop. Businesses will be able to use their existing inventory of plastic bags by applying for an exemption to the City’s Inspectional Services Department.

Switching to reusable bags is an important milestone, but it’s just one of the ways that you can help reduce waste. You can also use the City’s trash app. It allows you to check which materials are recyclable, and reminds you of your collection schedule, which means you may never miss your recycling or yard waste pick up day again. You can learn more about upcoming hazardous waste drop-off days and composting in the city at recycling-guide.

As a sustainable city, we’re committed to reducing our waste and the carbon pollution that causes climate change. We’re exploring ways to support waste reduction as well as increase opportunities for repair, reuse, recycling, composting and remanufacturing. Switching to reusable bags gets us closer to that goal. I’m proud of our progress and I know there’s much more work to be done — but first, let’s all remember to bring our reusable bags this holiday season and remind our neighbors to do the same.

Our Office of Neighborhood Services will be distributing reusable bags to residents, and bags will also be available for pick up at Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) locations. Businesses and residents can learn more about the City’s plastic bag ordinance at or by calling 311, our constituent hotline. For more information on our Climate Action Plan, please visit

11 Replies to “Mayor’s Column: Reducing Disposable Bags in Boston

    1. There is no point to any of this. It’s a way to have supermarkets charge for things they used to provide for free. Your non-disposable grocery bags will be full of grocery items wrapped in plastic bags You can still throw them into ocean instead of grocery bags full of dog poop. Crony capitalism pertuated by a bunch of scientists with LA degrees who couldn’t get a decent job to keep them occupied.

    2. Joan of Arc: That was my question. I just bought a small box of plastic garbage bags but I am sure the city will give residents time to transfer over to the newer bags which can be bought for 5 cents at a market and are reusable. By now, many people own the bags that larger grocery stores sold at check out. They last forever.

    1. The day I start believing 60 Minutes and its manufactured news is the day I start giving my social security number to every scammer who calls on the telephone and asks for it. This is just a hysterical reaction to a non-problem. Boston has a history of throwing everything concievable into Boston Hatbor starting with the Boston Tea Party and the mayor finds time to worry about a few grocery bags that got away.

      1. True story: years ago there were so many cars dumped in the harbor some stolen some for insurance $ that the cars were over the water line. There were so many cars dumped that they ended up on top of one another and could not sink. Lenny. quahog disposed of a few boats in the harbor as well and God knows what else. 🎅

  1. JP Thanks for the link…… I read the report. Chronicle featured a segment on plastic and the warehouses that are stuck with bales of it due to the Chinese not buying it from US anymore. Maybe 12′ high, and it was very disturbing.

  2. Ay T-Mobile,
    You know its funny you say that…When walking the pooch, I started just using napkins instead of bags, I mean I carry them [incase there’s no barrel] but I really hardly use them anymore, its awsome!! I probably use 2 now out of the 12 I use to use frivolously. It makes me feel alot better that that percentage isn’t contributing to the problem, but there’s still so much our lazy and spoiled selves can do~

  3. Has to help the litter situation in the neighborhood. People will adapt after forgetting to bring a bag to CVS. Next trip, they will remember then it will just be a normal occurrence.

    I never thought I’d be walking into Market Basket with my own bags but now…it’s old hat. Not a big issue and now our house isn’t overrun with plastic bags.

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