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Walsh signs plastic bag ban into law

Now that Mayor Marty Walsh has signed the ordinance, a plastic bag ban will go into effect in Boston within a year, officials said.
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Retail locations in Boston will now charge a 5-cent fee for paper or thicker plastic bags. Photo: Getty Images

It’s official: plastic bags will soon be banned in Boston.

Mayor Marty Walsh has signed an ordinance that bans single-use plastic bags in retail stores throughout the city.

The ban, which previously passed unanimously in Boston City Council, also adds a 5-cent fee for paper and thicker plastic bags, if customers do not bring their own reusable bags to stores.

The ban will go into effect in a year, allowing time for residents and retail stores to prepare for the change, officials said.

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Supporters of the ban say the move is necessary to lessen litter and help protect our environment. In Massachusetts alone, 60 towns and cities have plastic bag bans, and Boston joins the effort after neighbors like Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville.

The ban has faced some opposition from those who worry the fee will burden the city’s low-income and senior residents.

“First and foremost, we are very disappointed for the citizens and businesses in Boston,” Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said in a statement on Sunday after news broke that Walsh signed the ban into law.

“In the year before the ordinance goes into effect, we encourage the mayor to work with the new city council to address the major issues with this law,” his statement continued. “As it stands now, this is an unconstitutional tax that will be particularly harmful to seniors and low-income families in Boston. Additionally, it incentivizes the use of products that can be worse for the environment than 100-percent recyclable, highly reused plastic retail bags.”

When the city council passed the ordinance, At-Large Councillor Ayanna Pressley and Council President Michelle Wu promised to find ways to ease that burden, like by providing reusable bags to certain residents.

Walsh also expressed concerns about the cost now placed on shoppers.

“My concern about [banning] plastic bags is just the cost,” Walsh said on Sunday, after signing the ban into law on Friday, according to the Boston Globe. “I just think the cost is going to be shifted over to the consumer.”

Still, Walsh signed the ban into law because of its potential environmental benefits, the Globe reports. Similar bans have shown results, according to Mass Green Network, like in Austin, where a ban reduced bag waste by 75 percent and removed 200 million plastic bags, or 50,000 pounds of plastic, each year.