Northampton's Single Use Plastic Bag Ban

On May 21, 2015, the Northampton City Council passed ordinance 272-18 banning the distribution of single use plastic shopping bags in the City of Northampton.  The ban becomes effective on January 1, 2016Read the full ordinance

A few important components of the ordinance:

  • Northampton retail establishments may continue to dispense only compostable plastic, reusable or biodegradable shopping bags.
  • Thin-film single-use plastic shopping bags are defined as bags with a thickness of  3 mils or less. Plastic bags of  greater than 3 mils in thickness are considered reusable.
  • Ban exemptions include: A) Specialty thin-film bags—which typically lack handles—such as those used to protect or contain dry cleaned garments, curbside newspapers, and wet or food items (e.g. produce, meat, bulk foods, bread and cheese); B) Flexible transparent covering (commonly referred to as plastic wrap); C) Thin-film single use plastic bags under 3mil in thickness purchased prior to 4/1/2015.
  • Hardship deferments are available for retail establishments.  The City’s director of economic development will administer the program.
  • Bag conformity will be incorporated into the City health inspection process.
  • General questions about the ordinance may be directed to the Mayor's Office.

bagbag graphic tiny-hi res.jpg
Informational posters and point-of-sale tent cards announcing the ban are available in the Mayor's office, the Health Department, and the Department of Public Works.  Special thanks to local marketing professional Jody Young for her pro-Bono design contribution.

Download the 11'x17" poster
Download the point-of-sale tent card (print on legal size 8.5"x14" card stock)

View the press release announcing the Bring Your Own Bag campaign - November 13, 2015
plastic bag ball pulaski
Plastic Perpetrator?  This ball, comprised of over 18,000 single-use plastic shopping bags, was the subject of a short-lived police investigation when it was accidentally left overnight in front of the Puchalski Municipal Building in April, 2015.  The ball weighed 270 pounds and--unwound--was approximately six miles long.  Originally created for a 2010 school-related Earth Day project, it was the star of a waste consciousness-raising parade and toured the streets of downtown Northampton pulled by a bicycle with Big Brass Band accompaniment. 
Additional Bag Reduction Resources:

Why Communities are Choosing to Limit Distribution of Single-Use Plastic Bags

List of current US plastic bag ordinances
(compiled by Californians Against Waste)

Related bag ban information from other U.S. communities
Seattle (King County, WA)
Los Angeles (L.A. County)
San Francisco (City & County of San Francisco)
South Hampton (New York)

The Bag Share Project (Northampton, MA)
Bag Share Project volunteers sew and donate cloth bags to stores, libraries, farmer's markets, and other venues that want to reduce their shopping bag waste footprint.  An ID tag is sewn on the front of each bag, designating it as a 'Use and Return' bag. The bags are available at participating stores and may be borrowed when someone forgets their own reusable bag.  They can be returned to any BagShare location.

Democrats Propose Nationwide Tax on Plastic Bags (Washington Times, November 2015)
Plastic Bag Charge in Scotland Sees Usage Cut by 80% (BBC News, October 2015)
Do Plastic Bag Bans Work? (Scientific American Magazine, October 2014)
Will the 5pence Charge Finally Kill the Plastic Bag? (The Guardian, UK, September 2015)
China Bans Free Plastic Shopping Bags (New York Times, 2008)
Think Outside the Bag video (Warwick, Maine)
The Majestic Plastic Bag: A video mockumentary