Westborough’s plastic bag bylaw changes possibly delayed to mid-July

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Westborough town iconWESTBOROUGH – Changes to the Westborough’s plastic bag bylaw may not go into effect until July 18.

Town officials were originally anticipating that these changes would take effect on June 20.

However, during a Select Board meeting last Tuesday, Town Manager Kristi Williams said that the state attorney general’s office had said that Westborough may not receive a response until July 10.

“Now, we’re targeting with businesses the July 18 date,” Williams said.

Town Meeting approved changes

Westborough already had a bylaw on the books that prohibited plastic bags at grocery and retail store checkouts. 

In March, though, Town Meeting voted to adopt changes to this bylaw that will require all grocery and retail stores that offer checkout bags to charge customers at least $0.10 per bag.

Additionally, bags must now be either reusable — made from 100% post-consumer or biodegradable material — or be made of recyclable paper. 

The Westborough Economic Development Committee hosted an informational session on these changes last month, during which some businesses and residents spoke out in opposition. 

Julio’s Liquors’ Ryan Maloney commented during the session that businesses had been at the forefront of dealing with verbal abuse stemming from mask mandates and COVID-19. 

“We’re finally getting a little on the other side of this, and now my crew will have to explain to everybody that we have to charge you a $0.10 bag fee where we used to charge you nothing,” Maloney said.

During the Select Board meeting this week, Williams said that businesses have also voiced concerns about getting rid of their existing stock of bags and updating their point of sale systems to be able to charge for bags.

At that meeting, Williams emphasized that any bylaw changes must be approved by the Attorney general’s office, which might reject some or all of the amendments. 

Select Board grant six-month extensions

Waiting for further word from the attorney general, the town has been processing requests from businesses for a six-month exemption from the bylaw. 

The Select Board last week approved two such extensions for Julio’s Liquors and Boston Ski + Tennis.

The window for businesses to apply for an exemption has not closed. Williams said the Select Board can vote on any additional exemptions during its June 28 meeting.

Those seeking an exemption should email Cela Dorr at [email protected] explaining their reason for the request.

Board of Health to discuss other article 

This bag bylaw change was one of two petitioned articles before Town Meeting this spring that addressed plastic materials. 

The second article addressed plastic reduction in general and would have required restaurants to use biodegradable materials for their dine-out containers when such an alternative exists.

Town Meeting ultimately referred this article to the Board of Health. 

The Board of Health will be discussing this article during its July 19 meeting at 5 p.m. at the Westborough Fire Station.

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