Medford Plastic Bag Ordinance

Beginning in mid-July 2019, Medford will join more than 90 other Massachusetts municipalities that have passed ordinances to phase-out thin-film plastic bags from retail establishments throughout the city. The idea for the ordinance emerged from a group of Medford High School students who created an online petition calling for the elimination of plastic bags in the city, which received more than 600 Medford resident signatures. The ordinance was drafted in collaboration with the Law Department, Building Department, Health Department, Office of Energy & Environment, and the Mayor’s Office. It was passed unanimously by the City Council and signed by Mayor Stephanie Muccini Burke.

Plastic bags provided at retail outlets in the United States are often only used once before being thrown away, and are rarely recycled, typically ending up in the environment as litter and harming wildlife. Scientists estimate that it takes hundreds of years for them to biodegrade or break down. By switching to reusable checkout bags, together we will reduce the number of plastic and paper bags that are burned, used, discarded, and littered.

Thin-Film Plastic Bags Ordinance FAQs:

When does the new rule go into effect?

All retail establishments will be required to comply with the plastic bag ban starting Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

What types of bags are being eliminated?

The ordinance specifically prohibits thin-film plastic bags to be given out by retail establishments in Medford. Thin-film plastic bags are defined in the ordinance as bags made of non-biodegradable plastic that is less than 4 mil thickness (4/1000th of an inch).

What types of bags are acceptable?

Anything that a customer takes to the store themselves.

Or the store can provide:

  1. Paper bags that meet requirements as specified by the ordinance.
  2. Reusable bags made of cloth or thicker plastic that meet the requirements of the ordinance.
  3. Bags customers use inside establishments to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, grains, candy, etc.; contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish; contain or wrap flowers, potted plants, etc. are still allowed. Additionally, laundry or dry-cleaning bags, or bags sold in packages intended to be used for home food storage, garbage waste, pet waste, or yard waste are not included in this ordinance.

What type of businesses and organizations must comply with the new law?

The law applies to all retail establishments including, but not limited to, convenience and grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, stores that sell wine, beer or spirits, seasonal and temporary businesses, jewelry stores, hair salons, and household goods stores. If your business supplies a consumer with some sort of product – whether paid or unpaid – then you must comply with this law.

Why did Medford pass this ordinance?

The idea for the ordinance emerged from a group of Medford High School students who created an online petition calling for the elimination of plastic bags in the city, which received more than 600 Medford resident signatures.

Medford joins more than 90 other municipalities in Massachusetts as of January 2019, in this important initiative to reduce plastic bag pollution. Plastic bags create litter, jam recycling equipment when improperly placed in curbside bins, require fossil fuels to manufacture, and contribute to plastic pollution on land and in the water. Plastic bags do not biodegrade, and instead break into microparticles that have been found in many species of birds and fish, in soil, and in drinking water. Americans use an average of 326 plastic bags per person, every year.

To read the full ordinance, click here.

If you are a business and need more information, click here.