Boston’s Plastic Bag Ban: What You Need To Know

By Ranelle Porter,

By Lorelei Erisis | December 14, 2018 | 3 Minute Read

On December 14th, the City of Boston will begin the implementation of a citywide plastic bag ban on single-use bags. In doing so, Boston will be joining towns and cities across Massachusetts as well as countries around the world in the fight to save our environment from the overwhelming amount of plastic waste.

According to, “The average bag you pick up at the grocery store, or carry your takeout in, has a lifespan of about 12 minutes.” Multiply that by millions of people around the globe, and it’s easy to see how this disposable habit has become an ecological crisis-point. This torrent of plastic waste—that can take 1,000s of years to degrade—pollutes waterways, clogs sewers, disrupts entire ecosystems, and threatens the lives and basic health of many species of fish, birds, and other wildlife.

In fact, so much of this plastic has found its way into our oceans that there’s a number of floating “plastic patches” covering vast amounts of territory. The most famous being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Though difficult to measure accurately, some estimates have placed this patch as being the size of Russia.

More locally, it’s easy to see how single-use plastic bags mar the beauty of our city. They fly through our streets, clog our gutters, fill up abandoned lots, and hang from our trees. Through this plastic bag ban, the City of Boston hopes to curb trash on our streets, protect the marine environment and our waterways; and do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste.

Enforcement of the ban will roll out in three major stages. First, only the largest establishments of 20,000 square feet or more will be affected. Establishments of 10,000 square feet will need to follow the new rules by April. By next summer, all stores in the city will need to be up to speed with the new law.

But how will this affect you? Remember to bring reusable bags when you’re out shopping or running errands. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to pay a fee of 5 cents per bag for a thicker, compostable plastic bag or a paper bag made of recycled materials. If you’ve done any shopping or gotten takeout in Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Somerville, or any number of other surrounding towns, you may already be used to similar measures.

The plastic bag ban in Boston will relieve pressure on our landfills and ease our waste management services, while also beautifying our city. And in joining our efforts to those of quite successful plastic bag bans already in place around the globe, we can begin to mitigate many of the harmful impacts to our environment and to the wildlife we share the planet with.

We can all contribute to making a real difference in the state of our environmental health. And here in Boston, we have often been trailblazers—people who are not afraid to take on a challenge when we believe we can do good in the world. Through our support of this plastic bag ban, we can set an example, so that others may join us for good.

Join the City of Boston as we step up the fight against plastic pollution with the new plastic bag ban.