The plastic bag ordinance went into effect on Dec. 14 and it has received a mixed response from the business community and customers in the neighborhood.
The ordinance, which passed the City Council unanimously in November 2017 and was signed by Mayor Martin Walsh the next month, prohibits businesses from using single-use plastic carryout bags less than 3.0 mils thick, and imposes a minimum five-cent surcharge on the thicker plastic bags and paper bags.
The measure does not include bags, whether plastic or not, in which loose produce or products are placed by a consumer to deliver items to the point of sale, laundry or dry-cleaner bags, newspaper bags, bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish.
A businesses found to be violating the ordinance will receive a warning for the first offense, a $50 fine for the second offense, and a $100 fine for the third offense.
George Davis said he was in Stop and Shop on Dec. 14 and heard several customers complaining about the ordinance and the City Council for creating it. He also said he saw some customers grab the plastic bags used in the produce aisle to bag their items and another customer left all her groceries at the register and leave when she was told about the bag fee.
Jennifer Brogan, spokesperson for Stop and Shop, said the business had no comment.
When asked for what he had been hearing in his district, Hyde Jackson Square Main Street Executive Director Gerald Robbins replied, “Any change to what people have been doing forever can be difficult. The new law took effect on December 14 and city inspections will begin for large businesses first. For small businesses–most of our retailers and restaurants are between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet–there is a transition time whereby they may get variances as long as they document that their supply of plastic bags is dwindling. For these businesses, they will need to implement this in the coming months and we are still educating businesses on this new law. I have heard that some customers are not happy with a charge for 5 cents per bag although many residents do support the law.”
Michael Dupuy of Streetcar Wine & Beer and David Warner of City Feed and Supply both said they have not had any pushback from customers about the ordinance, while Steve Murakishi and Sue Stein of Fire Opal said in an email, “Our JP customers are super onboard with their own sense of responsibility protecting our environment. This busy weekend (12-14 to 12-16) we had zero requests for plastic. Fire Opal has only used recycled bags and boxes. Everyone had their own bags or found a way to transport their gifts themselves.”
Ginger Brown, executive director of Centre/South Main Streets, said in an email on Dec. 17, “I haven’t heard any feedback AFTER the ban went into effect. But I also haven’t had a chance to walk the district yet. I did spend a lot of time before the ban went into effect, visiting businesses to spread the word and help problem-solve, if need be.”
She said that the most common question she received from businesses was asking if they had to charge the 5 cents for the acceptable bags, with some even offering to roll the cost of the bags into their overall prices. She said the businesses felt it went against customer service to charge for the bags.
“I explained that it’s meant to remind customers that they are paying for bags, so they should try to bring their own,” esaid Brown. “But again, this seems so antithetical to the idea of customer service, I’m not quite sure that our retailers were 100 percent behind that part of the ordinance.”