Town of Watertown, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Ord. 31, passed 6-7-2016]
(A) 
The purpose of this chapter is to reduce the commercial use of single-use plastic bags in Watertown.
(B) 
The Town Council hereby finds that the reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags by commercial entities is a public purpose that protects the land and marine environment, advances solid waste reduction, and protects waterways. Further, single-use plastic bags clog storm drainage systems, create a burden to solid waste collection and recycling, and require the use of millions of barrels of crude oil nationally for their manufacture. This chapter seeks to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags that are being used, discarded and littered, and to promote the use of reusable checkout bags by retail stores located in Watertown.
(C) 
The Town Council notes that several neigh-boring communities and the State of Massachusetts have enacted or are considering enacting similar measures. Furthermore, at the time of enactment of this chapter, the Council is aware that 20 million Americans live in communities where bag bans are in place, including the entire states of Hawaii and California, along with several major countries, including India, China and Italy.
[Ord. 31, passed 6-7-2016; amended Ord. O-2018-78, passed 9-25-2018]
(A) 
The following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:
DEGRADABLE PLASTIC BAGS
Plastic bags that are comprised of a material that is capable of being rapidly decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms (biodegradable), light (photodegradable) under marine conditions (marine-degradable) as defined by ASTM or ISO standards.
DEPARTMENT
The enforcing town department from time to time as designated by the Town Manager.
DIRECTOR
The head of that department.
RECYCLABLE PAPER BAG
A paper bag that is 100% recyclable and contains at least 40% post-consumer recycled content, and displays the words "recyclable" and "made from 40% most-consumer recycled content" in a visible manner on the outside of the bag.
RETAIL ESTABLISHMENT
Any commercial enterprise selling goods, articles, food or personal services to the public, including, but not limited to, markets, restaurants, bars, take-out food purveyors, merchandise retailers, florists and galleries.
REUSABLE BAG
A sewn bag with stitched handles that is specifically designed for multiple reuse, and that:
(1) 
Is machine washable or is made of a material that can be cleaned or disinfected; and
(2) 
Is made of either:
(a) 
Natural fibers (such as cotton or linen); or
(b) 
Durable, nontoxic plastic, other than polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride, that is generally considered a food-grade material that is more than five mils thick.
SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BAG
A plastic bag made of plastic, including, but not limited to, bags made of high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, "biodegradable," "compostable" or "oxo-biodegradable" materials, that are intended for the purpose of transporting food or merchandise out of a retail establishment. For the purposes of this chapter, "single-use plastic bags" shall not include:
(1) 
Bags, whether plastic or not, in which loose or bulk candy, produce or products are placed by a consumer to deliver such items to the point of sale or check-out area of a retail establishment;
(2) 
Bags used to segregate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other food or merchandise when placed together in a point-of-sale bag;
(3) 
Laundry or dry-cleaner bags;
(4) 
Bags holding prescription medication dispensed from a pharmacy; or
(5) 
Newspaper bags.
[Ord. 31, passed 6-7-2016; amended Ord. O-2018-78, passed 9-25-2018]
(A) 
No single-use plastic bag shall be distributed, either with or without charge, to a customer at any retail establishment located in the town, except for degradable plastic bags as noted in division (B) below.
(B) 
Retail establishments may provide or sell to customers recyclable paper bags, degradable plastic bags, or reusable bags. Information publicizing this chapter, and advising customers to wash reusable bags to prevent food-borne illness must be prominently displayed or communicated at the point of provision or sale.
(C) 
Public information advising customers on the proper care and maintenance of reusable bags shall be available through the Public Health Department.
(D) 
The Department shall have the authority to promulgate regulations to accomplish any of the provisions of this chapter.
[Ord. 31, passed 6-7-2016; amended Ord. O-2018-78, passed 9-25-2018]
(A) 
The Director may exempt a retail establishment from the requirements of this chapter for a period of up to six months, upon a finding by the Director that the requirements of this chapter would cause undue hardship to the retail establishment. An "undue hardship" shall only be found in circumstances where the retail establishment requires additional time in order to draw down an existing inventory of single-use plastic bags or paper bags which do not meet the definition of recyclable paper bags. Any retail establishment receiving an exemption shall file with the Director monthly reports on inventory reduction and remaining stocks.
(B) 
Any retail establishment may apply for an exemption to the Director, using forms provided by the Department, and shall allow the Director, or his or her designee, access to all information supporting its application.
(C) 
The Director may approve the exemption request, in whole or in part, with or without conditions.
[Ord. 31, passed 6-7-2016]
(A) 
Town employees, from time to time, as designated by the Town Manager, are empowered and authorized to enforce this chapter.
(B) 
This chapter may be enforced through any lawful means in law or in equity, including, but not limited to, non-criminal disposition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 40, § 21D, and the town's ordinances. If non-criminal disposition is elected, then any retail establishment which violates any provision of this chapter shall be subject to the following penalties:
(1) 
First offense: $100 fine.
(2) 
Second offense: $200 fine.
(3) 
Third and subsequent offenses: $300 fine each.
(C) 
Each day or portion thereof shall constitute a separate offense. If more than one, each condition violated shall constitute a separate offense.