The Death of the Plastic Bag Is upon Us in Boston

The ban starts now.

Plastic bags full of groceries in the trunk of a car

In retrospect, it’s amazing that plastic bags lasted this long. A scourge of the earth, and an ongoing environmental disaster, they are not only wasteful single-use products, they clog drains, threaten ocean life, float like tumbleweeds through neighborhoods, get stuck in trees, gum up the works in recycling facilities, and just generally make themselves a nuisance. And starting now in Boston, they’re over.

A long-awaited ban on plastic bags kicks in today, meaning customers at large and mid-size grocery stores will no longer be given them at checkout. Instead, per a new city ordinance passed by the City Council and signed by Mayor Marty Walsh late last year, you’ll have to bring your own reusable bags to the store, or else have your goods bagged in paper or some other recyclable or reusable container, and pay a mandatory minimum fee of five cents per bag. The ban also applies at restaurants, where take-out food will have to be be packed into non-plastic or reusable bags.

“We know that single-use plastic bags have an impact on the environment,” the city writes on its website. “Our goal is to reduce litter and pollution. We want to protect the ocean our waterways. We aim to also reduce greenhouse gasses and reduce solid waste in the waste stream.”

Right now the ban applies to stores larger than 20,000 square feet. In April, stores larger than 10,000 square feet will have to comply, and then everyone else will be required to follow suit come July. Exempted from the new rules are newspaper bags, laundry and dry-cleaner bags, plastic wrapped around meats, and trash bags. So, OK, lots of plastic is still out there. But one of the most heinous plastic products around is now finally about to vanish. So, nice.

To celebrate this great news, Shaw’s, Star Market, and Stop & Shop locations are giving out free reusable bags, according to a round-up at

City Councilor Matt O’Malley also says he’s handing them out himself.