Last year, Boston’s City Council unanimously approved a measure which effectively banned single-use plastic bags. Today, the new law takes effect, meaning businesses will no longer be able to distribute them in stores.
Initially, the new ordinance will be enforced at larger establishments that are more than 20,000 square feet, with stores that are 10,000 feet and greater following suit in April.
With the new ban, Boston becomes part of a growing environmental movement in the U.S. fighting against plastic waste. Over 350 cities have already banned plastic bags across the United States, with that number expected to continue to rise.
Currently, only Hawaii and California have statewide plastic bag bans, with several other cities having either mandatory recycling programs, taxes on plastic bag use, etc.
“We know that single-use plastic bags have an impact on the environment. They often end up in city streets and gutters, abandoned lots, and even in trees,” according to a website set up by city officials to help explain the new rules. “Through this ordinance, the city aims to reduce the use of disposable checkout bags by retail stores in Boston.”
Greenhouse gas emissions, protecting marine life, and waste reduction were among the leading reasons for banning the bag.
New rules state that retail establishments will be required to use alternate bags when packing up goods for customers. Customers will be going home with reusable bags, recycled paper bags, or compostable bags that they’ll have to purchase. They also may bring their own.
Reuse This Bag estimates that a plastic bag has just a 12-minute lifespan from when it’s initially filled with groceries to when it is tossed away. From there, it is estimated that the same bag takes anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years to decompose. Quickly, the picture becomes clear that for a few minutes of use, plastic bags weigh heavily on long-term environmental impact.
These bags eventually make their way to landfills and into our oceans, adding to the 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every minute. This impacts every scale of marine ecosystems, from bottom feeders and microorganisms to whales.
It is critical to reduce our dependency on plastic, and we celebrate every single city and state that stands up for the environment by banning single use items. Go Boston!