Bring your own Bag!

Jokingly called the state flower of Manhattan, plastic bags are no laughing matter:

“United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world’s oceans are under threat, citing one study suggesting that plastic garbage may outweigh fish by 2050. (Associated Press)”

​Recently, the City of Salem passed an ordinance by the Salem City Council that promotes the use of reusable shopping bags by all vendors. This ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2018 and will be enforced by City of Salem personnel.  SalemRecycles expects this change to have great effects on bag litter in the city, as well as require changes in business and resident shopping habits.  After all, you will need to bring your own bag starting in 2018.

Some common questions, and answers issued by the City of Salem:


1) What is this Q & A about?

Last Fall, the Salem City Council passed an ordinance that restricts the use of single use plastic bags by all retail and food establishments in the City of Salem. With this action, Salem joins 54 cities and towns in Massachusetts as of July 2017, including the nearby communities of Marblehead, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Hamilton, and Ipswich, in restricting the use of plastic shopping bags.

2) Which Businesses Will Be Affected By This Ordinance

Any commercial establishment, whether for profit or nonprofit,any and all food vendors and retail stores, either year round, seasonal, temporary or pop-up; including but not limited to, restaurants, bakeries, delis, cafes, grocers, food carryout or deliveries, pharmacies, convenience, liquor stores, jewelry, clothing, and household goods stores.

Salem commercial establishments should plan to use up their current stock of prohibited bags by December 31, 2017 as the ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2018.

3) What Bags Are Prohibited

Disposable plastic shopping bags with handles and a thickness of 4 mil or less, that are used for the purpose of carrying away goods from the point of sale.

This includes:

  • Degradable plastic bags
  • Bio-Degradable plastic bags, whether they are compostable, or not.

4) What Bags Are Allowed?

  1. Reusable washable bags with a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, capable of carrying at least 22 pounds,can be cleaned 125 times, and if plastic, is thicker than 4 mil.
  2. Produce or product bags, whether plastic or not,without handles, in which loose produce, bulk products, or meats are placed to deliver such items to the point of sale. These bags are allowed because they contain moisture and prevent contamination of certain foods whether pre-packaged or not.
  3. Paper bags of any size must be marked 100% recyclable with 40% post-consumer recycled content.
  4. Newspaper bags.
  5. Laundry or dry cleaner bags.

5) What Are The Consequence?

First offenses can result in a warning notice. Subsequent infractions will result in stronger action. Warnings can be issued by any police officer, enforcement officer or agent of the Board of Health or Licensing Department.

6) Will Plastic Bags And Wrap Continue To Be Collected For Recycling?

Stores that currently collect shopping bags, bread bags, bubble wrap, plastic wrap from paper towels and toilet paper, etc. are encouraged to continue offering this service to their customers.

7) What is the Purpose of this Ordinance?

First, this ordinance seeks to promote the use of reusable checkout bags by retail establishments located in Salem as well as to reduce the number of single use plastic bags that are being used, discarded and littered.  This is a public purpose that protects the marine environment, advances solid waste reduction, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and protects waterways.

8) Helpful Tips for This Transition:

This ordinance allows any establishment to sell any bags other than prohibited plastic bags to customers at checkout.

  • Plan to use up your supply of single use plastic bags before January 1, 2018
  • Encourage your customers to use reusable bags-think about ways to offer an incentive
  • Stock reusable bags for purchase or to give away. They’re great advertising!
  • Save product boxes for customers to use to carry away purchases

For more information regarding environmental concerns, please contact Salem Sound Coastwatch at (978) 741-7900 or

For questions regarding legal concerns, please contact City’s Legal Dept. (978) 619-5638.

Si usted necesita la traducción de esta carta por favor llame al (978)-619-5671.

For sample legislation and other resources for reducing plastic bags, polystyrene, and water bottles, visit:

Join the Mass Green Network by registering at:

For a list of people organizing campaigns in cities and towns across the state, visit:
=> If your town isn’t listed, then add your name there!