Cambridge City Council Votes 8-1 to adopt a ban on plastic bags.

The ban makes Cambridge the largest city on the east coast to adopt such a ban and also the first community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to require a fee on paper bag use. Councilor Carlone reports details in his blog here. Our Chapter is so pleased!

Progress was made on (3/12) at the Cambridge Ordinance Committee Meeting for the plastic bag ban, which is now officially known by the short title “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance. The Ordinance committee was charged with the task of reviewing and voting on a series of amendments to the original ordinance proposed by Councilor Decker a few years ago.

Some of the amendments created loopholes and concerns, especially from Surfrider MA’s perspective. We wanted an ordinance to pass but we wanted it to be strong enough to prevent continued proliferation of plastic bags. Here are the key points on which Surfrider Massachusetts submitted public comment and a formal to the city council:


  • Section 8.67.030 Definitions (a)(3)(e) – voted to be eliminated!


Our Chapter strongly opposes the exclusion of “take-out” food as this could lead to a significant loophole allowing continued proliferation of single-use plastic bags.


  • Section 8.67.030 Definitions (a)(5) – voted to be eliminated!


Our Chapter strongly opposes the change of minimum thickness from 3 mils down to 2.25 mils. Reducing the minimum thickness would allow for use of plastic bags that are not truly reusable.


  • Section 8.67.030 Definitions (a)(6) (now 7) – voted to be stricken from the definition!


Our Chapter opposes the exclusion of farmer’s markets as this would allow for potentially significant and continued proliferation of single-use plastic bags.


  • Section 8.67.040 Requirements new subsection (C) – voted to be a mandatory charge!


Our Chapter strongly supports a mandatory fee for paper bags, separately stated on a receipt, in order to level the playing field for small business owners and to encourage consumer use of reusable bags.


  • Section 8.67.060 Exemptions new (A) – voted to be included 🙁


Our Chapter strongly opposes changing the exemption extension from 6 months to 2 years. Together with the allowance for retailers to re-apply for further extensions, the public purpose of this ban would be blocked indefinitely.

Overall Surfrider Massachusetts is very pleased with this big step forward. Next up, the city council will vote yes/no on a very strong ordinance. Stay tuned for timing on the big vote!