Amherst may seek more clarity in plastic bag ban

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2017 1:43:12 PM

AMHERST — A town law prohibiting single-use plastic bags may be up for revision after the Board of Health last week gave a business a one-year exemption from the regulation.

The health board on Jan. 12 voted unanimously to provide A.J. Hastings a one-year deferment after its owners expressed uncertainty about whether the bags they are using, both paper and plastic, comply with the language of the bylaw. The new regulations went into effect Jan. 1.

Co-owner Sharon Povinelli said she would like to a see the bylaw state explicitly that stores are in compliance if the bags they provide customers are reused. Without this knowledge, she said, it is difficult to order new stock, including paper bags that feature the store’s logo, and to deploy various plastic bags that are reused, such as those that keep bundled newspapers dry but can be given to customers who purchase posterboard and other products.

Health Director Julie Federman said it appears Hastings is doing what is required of the bylaw, which was adopted by Town Meeting last May.

“You’re reusing it, which is the spirit of the bylaw,” Federman said.

The bylaw prevents the use of bags that are three-one-thousandths of an inch thick or less, but businesses can use biodegradable, reusable and compostable plastic bags, or recyclable paper bags.

Federman said the health board may need to go through the bylaw “word-by-word” so it can be tweaked by a future session of Town Meeting and provide more clarity to shopkeepers.

Board of Health Chairman Marco Boscardin said the bylaw has vagaries in its definitions, and isn’t necessarily specific about its intent to ensure that all bags are reusable and that they are not being discarded when customers get home.

He supports providing this clarity.

“We are responsible for making it enforceable,” Boscardin said.

Member Julie Marcus said the challenge is creating a culture shift similar to that in New Zealand, where store employees expect customers to bring bags.

This can be done, Marcus said, by providing incentives to customers to bring in bags, rather than punishing retailers for violations.

Povinelli said it is unlikely that there will be a day soon when customers don’t need bags, and plastic is sometimes preferred, such as when the weather is wet.

Still, she said the bylaw is having an effect in that many customers will often consider not taking a bag when making a purchase.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy