Metro, Newton

Newton to Ban Retail Use of Black Plastic, Other Single-Use Plastic and Waste

An amendment that will ban black plastic take-out containers and mandate reusable cutlery and plates, among other guidelines aimed at limiting harmful waste in the city, passed 22–0 during a Newton City Council meeting on Monday night.

The amendment will take effect in March 2024.

“Single use plastic has a significant impact on the environment through its carbon footprint, waste management, pollution, and more,” the amended ordinance reads. “The provisions of this ordinance will reduce the amount of single-use plastic used throughout the City.”

Victoria Danberg, Ward 6 councilor-at-large, said the city and local businesses worked together on the ordinance to address environmental and business concerns.

“This has been a work in progress for over two years,” Danberg said during the meeting. “We have met with the mayor … representation from the schools, Greg Reibman, the Charles River Regional Chamber, [and] restaurants.”

Greg Reibman, president of the Charles River Regional Chamber, said in the organization’s newsletter that businesses and city representatives met to pin down what the city should ban. 

Businesses said that banning some items—like plastic water bottles—would have a negative impact on economic activity in the city and not necessarily solve waste issues, according to Reibman.

“We acknowledge that single-use plastics and their byproducts are devastating to our waterways and our communities,” the newsletter reads. “But we were concerned about the economic impact the proposed bans would have on many of our smallest businesses. Many of these products should be regulated state-wide, not one community at a time.”

Plastic water bottles, plastic glitter, and other items were ultimately taken out of consideration for this proposed ordinance, according to Reibman.

Residents could have ordered glitter online or driven to the next town over to purchase plastic bottles if these items were included in the ordinance, which would hurt small businesses as well as continue to damage the environment, he wrote in the newsletter.

Danberg relayed the same point at the city council meeting.

“There was a lot of give and take in this, too,” she said. “The ordinance as it is now has some substantial changes from where we were originally, and I think it’s a better ordinance—an ordinance that more people can live with.”

Last March, Alan Gordon, a member of the Plastics Reduction Working Group that helped craft the ordinance, and Reibman spoke at a city council meeting.

Danberg reiterated the goals of the ordinance, which she said were welcomed by various people—including business owners—who raised questions when the ordinance was introduced.

“The goal of this ordinance is to improve the plastic junk and trash situation in the city of Newton to further reduce the prevalence of single-use plastic,” she said. “This has a measurable effect on reduction of trash, on our carbon footprint, on trash volume, on reduction of litter, improving environmental health, and improving the health of human beings.”

September 19, 2023