Northampton City Council OKs new plastics regs for restaurants, retail businesses

  • Northampton City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2021 2:22:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The City Council approved an ordinance Thursday that will cut down on plastic use by restaurants and retail businesses. 

“I just see this as the beginning of an exciting conversation about what other climate healing steps we can take right here in our community,” said Ward 7 City Councilor Rachel Maiore, who co-sponsored the ordinance with at-large Councilor William Dwight and the mayor’s Youth Commission.

The ordinance, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, will require restaurants to stop giving customers food in disposable containers made of Styrofoam or several kinds of plastic, including polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate. Containers also must be recyclable. It also requires restaurants and retail businesses to use disposable ware such as utensils and cups that are biodegradable, compostable, reusable or recyclable. Additionally, the ordinance will prohibit stores from selling Styrofoam packing peanuts and bans the use of plastic checkout bags in favor of bags that are recyclable or reusable.

There also are a number of exemptions to the plastics regulations. The mayor would be able to grant a one-year extension to businesses if it’s found “that the requirements of this ordinance would cause undue hardship to the establishment,” and two six-month extensions could be added. 

The proposed ordinance was passed on first reading earlier this month, and it required two votes to make it final. At Thursday’s meeting, Maiore suggested taking out one section of the proposed ordinance that would require businesses that occupy more than 5,000 square feet of space to charge at least 10 cents for checkout bags they provide. The council approved that change. 

“It’s really about further reflection. We see this bag fee as a solid amendment, an important part of promoting reusability,” Maiore said. “But if we take it out, we can consider it separately, potentially as its own ordinance, and that will afford us more time to hear from businesses as well as the community on this.”

Noah Kassis, who chairs the Youth Commission, agreed. 

“While the Youth Commission and the sponsors still very much believe the bag fee is the right thing to do, there’s no reason not to do some more due diligence and talk to some of the business and think through the square footage number more carefully than has been done,” he said.  

Speaking of the ordinance in general, Kassis said, “I think it’s a good step … There’s going to be lots of next steps, but it’s a good step.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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