Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance

In July 2019, Newton City Council passed an ordinance (that expands upon the December 2015 plastic bag reduction ordinance) requiring businesses to provide compostable or reusable bags at checkout instead of plastic bags. The reduction of the use of plastic bags helps protect the marine environment, advances solid waste reduction and protects waterways.


January 8th 2020- All establishments over 3500 sq.ft. will be required to comply with the updated ordinance at this time. Businesses over 3500 sq.ft. will be required to charge no less than 10 cents ($0.10) for reusable bags provided by the store. Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags.

July 8th, 2020 ALL retail businesses will be required to meet this ordinance. This will include all retail establishments including restaurants, food or ice cream trucks, convenience stores, retail pharmacy, supermarket or seasonal/temporary businesses.


  • If bags are provided to customers, the bag shall be either recyclable paper bag or a reusable checkout bag (see ordinance for a definition of each)

  • A retail establishment that provides any type of checkout bag shall sell it for no less than ten cents ($0.10). All moneys collected pursuant to this ordinance shall be retained by the retail establishment.

  • Any charge for a checkout bag shall be separately stated on a receipt provided to the customer at the time of sale and shall be identified as “Checkout Bag Charge”.


Any retail establishment that violates any part of this ordinance will be subject to the following fine schedule:

    • First offense: Warning

    • Second offense: $100.00 fine

    • Third offense: $200.00 fine

    • Fourth and subsequent offense: $300.00. Each day a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense


This ordinance does NOT include Meals on Wheels food delivery service to home bound persons with disabilities. The ordinance provides the following exemptions for plastic bag use: dry cleaning/laundry, a bag used to contain unwrapped food like produce, a bag without handles that is used to protect items from damaging other items such as protecting wine bottles or vegetables, newspaper bags, bags used to contain loose produce, and paper bags given to customers at a pharmacy for medication.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email



Are EBT customers exempt from being charged the checkout bag fee?

No, there are no exemptions.

Are paper bags required to have handles?


Are reusable bags required to have handles?

Yes. The definition in the ordinance states that a reusable bag is sewn with stitched handles.

Are there any filing requirements to the City regarding the checkout bag fee?


Do establishments have to charge for each bag given with take-out orders?

Yes, and No.

No, if the bag is used to protect loose food (e.g., a bagel in a paper bag)

Yes, if multiple bags are placed into a larger checkout bag to carry out.

Do I have to charge a fee for a bag that is used to carry out a called-in order of food or items?

Yes. It is recommended that establishments that have a call-in ordering option develop a company policy regarding the bag fee for call-in orders. One suggestion is to ask the customer during the call if they will bring a bag(s) at the time of pick-up, if not, a bag will be provided at a cost of 10 cents.

Do I have to charge a fee for a bag that is used to contain loose food items, such as a produce bag?


Does the retailer keep the checkout bag fee?


How will the law be enforced?

The Newton Health Department will enforce the law.

Is the checkout bag fee taxable?

Yes, the 10 cents or more fee that establishments must charge is subject to MA sales tax.

What does the new law say about reusable bags?

A reusable bag is must be sewn with stitched handles and designed for multiple uses. It must be made of natural fibers or durable, non-toxic plastic (not polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride) that is at least 4 mils thick.

What if an establishment does not use a cash register or uses a paper receipt?

If a cash register cannot be programmed to add “checkout bag charge,” or if a paper receipt is used, the words “checkout bag charge - ten (10) cents” must be handwritten.

What is required to appear on the receipt?

The checkout bag fee is required to be a separate line item on the receipt listed as “Checkout Bag Charge.”

When does the new ordinance take effect?

 For stores 3,500 square feet or larger, the ordinance is effective on January 8, 2020.

 For stores smaller than 3,500 square feet, the ordinance is effective on July 8, 2020.

Why did we make these changes to the existing Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance?

Plastic bags harm the environment and cannot be recycled curbside. The ordinance is intended to reduce litter and to encourage customers to bring their own re-usable shopping bags. Over 120 communities in Massachusetts have now passed laws to reduce the use of plastic bags.

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