Northampton Implements Plastic Bag Ban!

By Kelsey Colpitts, Marketing EcoFellow

Northampton started out the year a little greener by implementing a single-use plastic bag ban! Shoppers can now either opt for the paper bag option or bring their own reusable bags, even in the larger chain stores and supermarkets. Prior to the ban, Northampton’s approximately 28,500 residents consumed an estimated 12-15 million single-use plastic bags annually, so this regulation is intended to make the city a cleaner and more environmentally responsible place to live.

Plastic bags are bad news!

According to the EPA, between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. These bags take hundreds of years to decompose, leaking their toxic contents into soil and waterbodies in the process. Because plastic bags are so inexpensive (1 cent per bag, compared to a 4 cent paper bag) and the recycling process so costly, less than 5% of plastic grocery bags in the US end up being recycled. Thankfully, towns and cities across the globe are beginning to ban these pollutants and seek more eco-friendly alternatives! In Massachusetts alone, 18 towns have similar bag bans while several others are in the process of creating bag ban legislation.

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It’s not stopping there! Cities and towns are also beginning to ban other toxic or environmentally harmful materials such as polystyrene foam (Styrofoam ™). Bans of this sort already exist in nearby municipalities including Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Williamstown, and 18 Massachusetts legislators have cosponsored a bill that would ban Styrofoam food containers statewide!

The Northampton bag ban is specifically focused on eliminating thin film, single-use plastic bags that are less than 3 millimeters thick. Businesses that bulk purchased plastic bags before April 2015 are allowed to continue providing them to customers until July 2018. Read the complete ordinance, which includes information about exceptions and violations.

Northampton has always been a leader in environmental awareness, and residents and businesses are very open to changes intended to make the city a greener place to live and work. Before the ban was put into place, establishments including Cooper’s Corner, Cornucopia Foods, River Valley Market co-op and Serio’s Market all had already phased out plastic bags. Additionally, several local stores participate in the which is a global movement where volunteers sew and donate cloth bags to venues that are interested in reducing bag waste. These donated bags are labeled with an ID tag displaying “Use and Return” and are loaned to customers who have forgotten their reusable bags.

We are very excited about this new ban and commend Northampton and the other towns whose initiatives help to reduce waste and pollution!

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