Westborough Board of Health proposes changes to plastic reduction bylaw

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Westborough Board of Health proposes changes to plastic reduction bylaw
A car passes in front of Westborough Town Hall back in December. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – Residents will have another chance to decide on a plastic reduction bylaw at the fall Town Meeting.

Westborough currently has a bylaw on the books outlawing single-use plastic check out bags. Changes to that bylaw went before Town Meeting in the spring to have it address plastic reduction in general. It was petitioned by Zero Waste Westborough and ultimately referred to the Board of Health.

During the Select Board meeting on Sept. 27, Board of Health Chair Alan Ehrlich, presented updates to the bylaw.

There were several changes made after the board used an information session to reach out to local businesses this summer.

Specifically, under the section “Purpose and Intent,” “thin film plastic bags” was changed to “single use plastics.” Under the use regulations, grocery stores and retail stores will be required to use biodegradable materials for their dine-out services — such as the utensils, sauce containers and takeout containers — when such an alternative exists.

The bylaw is meant to reduce the use of single-use plastics, which “have significant impacts on the environment, including, but not limited to, contributing to the potential death of aquatic and land animals through ingestion and entanglement; contributing to pollution of the natural environment; creating a burden to solid waste collection and recycling facilities; clogging storm drainage systems; and requiring the use of millions of barrels of crude oil nationally for their manufacture.”

Should the bylaw pass at Town Meeting, there will be a six-month period before the bylaw takes effect.

Ehrlich said that businesses are not opposed to the bylaw, but they are concerned about supply chain, costs, policing and reliability of biodegradable materials.

He added that should the bylaw pass, the Board of Health will reach out to local businesses to provide education about the new regulations.

“Westborough tries to be a green community,” said Ehrlich.

Westborough recently approved other changes to the bylaw during spring Town Meeting that requires all bags given out at stores to be reusable or made of recyclable paper. The state attorney general’s office struck down a portion of the bylaw that would have charged a mandatory fee for all bags.

Town Meeting will convene on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Westborough High School. If needed, there will be a second night on Oct. 18.

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