Get Ready for Watertown’s Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance

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Watertown’s bring your own shopping bag ordinance begins on July 1, meaning that plastic bags will not be available at stores in town. 

The Town Council passed the ordinance in June of 2016, aiming at banning single-use plastic bags because they sometimes end up in the Charles River, in trees and other places. The ordinance was originally proposed by ReThink Plastic, a citizens group. The ordinance also encourages people to bring their own reusable shopping bag.

Businesses will be able to use up their existing supply of plastic bags after the ban begins. After that paper bags and other degradable bags will be allowed, and customers will be able to bring reusable bags.

Read the whole ordinance here.

The Community Development and Planning Department released the following announcement:

Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance

Coming soon in July there will be a change to how customers will be able to take away their products. Starting July 1, 2017, you will only be able to use paper bags, degradable bags, or reusable bags.

We think it is important to let you know now, so that your current supply of plastic bags can be used up by then and you can order an appropriate bag stock for July. There will be much more information coming between now and July 2017.

Why prohibit Single Use Plastic Bags?

• A plastic bag can take between 400 and 1,000 years to break down in the environment.

• Plastic particles contaminate soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.

• Rid our streets, river, parklands, and landfills of litter.

• Single-use plastic bags clog storm drainage systems and add to our solid waste collection.

• In some locations, there are 46 times more plastic than available food for marine animals.

• Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year.

• Nearly 90% of the debris in our oceans is plastic.

• Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the non-profit Center for Marine Conservation.

• When fish and other marine animals ingest plastic debris, they are also ingesting toxins from plastic bags and other plastic waste.

• If the food we eat is contaminated with toxins, we will be too.

• To Help Save the Environment!

For more information, contact the Code Enforcement Office, or visit the Single-Use Bag website at

Sources: International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA National Ocean Service

5 thoughts on “Get Ready for Watertown’s Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance

    • John, did read the reasoning behind the ordinance. It all makes sense. If you like plastic bags so much, you can come to my house and remove them from my lawn and bushes.

  1. Sounds like a great idea to me. I’ve walked the loop around the Charles (Bridge St and back to the Square) for almost 20 years, and have retrieved too many plastic bags from the bushes, the trees … and even the river itself. They are unsightly and unnatural — and we can live without them.

  2. Im not a fan of plastic. Bit its funny how businesses moved from heavy paper bags that were strong to plastic. As people chose paper still.. they started usi g cheaper thinner paper so people would choose plastic and now we are back.. just stick with heavy paper. I noticed star market in cambridge has plastic bags again. Difference.. they charge u now for either.

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