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Select Board Approves Article Banning Single-Use Plastic Checkout Bags

by Connie Sartini


   Groton Select Board voted unanimously to include a proposal to promote the use of reusable check-out bags, reduce use of paper check-out bags and ban single-use plastic check-out bags as an article on the October 21 Fall Town Meeting Warrant. 

   Member john Giger, who originally raised the proposal to the Select Board, stressed that once approved by the Board to be included in Fall Town Meeting, the next step in the process is to schedule a public hearing on the proposed new bylaw.

   The purpose of the proposed bylaw would be to promote the use of reusable bags by reducing the number of paper bags and eliminating the use of thin-film plastic checkout bags distributed in Groton. Reducing the use of paper bags and eliminating thin-film, single-use plastic bags through the combined effort by citizens and businesses will have a positive impact on our environment including but not limited to reducing Groton’s carbon footprint, protecting ponds, lakes and waterways, avoiding the waste of finite natural resources, protecting land and water-based small animals and preserving the unique natural beauty of our town.

   There are some exemptions. Plastic bags required by the Groton Public Works Department for disposal of household trash at the town’s transfer station would not be prohibited by this bylaw. Also, thin-film plastic bags, typically without handles, which are used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, wet items, bulk food, meat, paper products and other similar merchandise would not be prohibited by this bylaw.

   The proposed bylaw contains a section on regulated conduct:

   No Retail Establishment with a floor area equal to or exceeding 3,000 square feet or with at least two (2) locations under the same name within the Town of Groton that total 3,000 feet or more shall provide Thin-Film, Single Use Plastic Check-Out Bags to customers  in the Town of Groton after (6) months following approval of the bylaw by the Attorney General or on July 1, 2020, whichever is later.

   No Retail Establishments with a floor area less than less than 3,000 square feet shall provide Thin-Film, Single Use Check-Out Bags to customers in the Town of Groton beginning nine (9) months following approval of the bylaw by the Attorney General or on October 1, 2020, whichever is later.

   Retail establishments currently providing free Recyclable Paper Check-out Bags or plastic Check-Out Bags made with film which is equal to or greater than 4 mil and equal to or larger than ten (10) inches wide by five (5) inches deep by 15 inches high are encouraged to require customers to pay five cents ($0.05), or more, for each bag provided. The intent of this action is to allow retail establishments to reduce their cost to provide Recyclable Paper and qualifying plastic Check-out Bags. 

   The decision to establish a fee for bags of these types is solely at the discretion of the organization providing the bag.

   In addition, there are other sections that will be part of the proposed bylaw that spell out Definitions; Enforcement and Penalties; Regulations; and Severability.

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