Cars drive through downtown Westborough, which saw a proposed plastic waste reduction bylaw amendment rejected by the state attorney general this week. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

WESTBOROUGH — A proposed mandatory $0.10 bag fee at Westborough stores will not go into effect thanks to a recent decision by the state attorney general.

The fee was part of a series of changes to Westborough’s current plastic bag reduction bylaw. It was passed at the March town meeting but was recently voted down after review by AG office Maura Healey, according to a decision letter from the AG office, which reviews the bylaws.

Although the GA office waived the fee, it approved other changes, including one that required all bags distributed in stores to be either reusable – made from 100% post-consumer or biodegradable materials – either in recyclable paper. This change will take effect on July 18.

Westborough’s original bag bylaw prohibited the use of single-use thin-film plastic bags in grocery and retail stores. He was promoting reusable bags, saying that if a store provided checkout bags, they had to be reusable or recyclable paper bags.

The original rule stated that stores “may” charge for bags, but it did not require such a fee, unlike the amended rule.

What was offered

It was then one of two plastic-related petitioned items that were presented at the town hall this spring.

Petitioned by Zero Waste Westborough, member Nathan Askew presented changes at the town meeting.

“It’s not a new concept,” Askew said at the time. “It’s something a lot of places do.”

“It basically brings a mind awareness to the user, so it’s not so easy and convenient to go to the retail store or wherever you want to shop and not bring a bag” , he continued.

The second article that was requested by Zero Waste Westborough dealt with plastic reduction in general. This would require restaurants to use biodegradable materials for their catering containers when such an alternative exists.

This article was ultimately referred to the Board of Health, who will hold an information session on July 19 at 5 p.m. in the meeting room at the Westborough Fire Station.

Breeders share their thoughts

When this pair of items were presented to the select committee ahead of the town hall, some members expressed concern while others voiced support. Current chairman Ian Johnson was concerned details had not been released to shops and restaurants, while Sean Keogh said he was generally supportive.

“These are things we have to do,” Keogh said.

He added that he would be interested in following up and working with the community to bring this issue back to Westborough’s fall town meeting if it is not passed at the March town meeting.

Shelby Marshall noted that some Westborough restaurants may need help and education on where to source the new products.

“I support this change,” Marshall said. “[But] I don’t know if I’m still at baggage claim.

Marshall recalls a recent trip to Maine where she went to a store that charged for bags. She said she was sensitive, in particular, to older residents, noting that grocery store prices were rising.

A bag fee would be an additional cost, she said.

Companies take the floor

In the weeks and months after the town hall, city staff warned that changes to the bag bylaw still needed to be approved by the attorney general.

These messages have come up repeatedly, including during a settlement briefing in May.

“We’re holding this meeting so everyone is ready for it to go through,” City Manager Kristi Williams said during the meeting. “But we definitely want to make it clear that it’s also possible that the Attorney General won’t approve some or all of the amendments.”

During that same meeting, residents and business owners spoke out against the settlement, including Julio’s Liquors owner Ryan Maloney.

He said the companies were at the forefront of the fight against verbal abuse stemming from mask mandates and COVID-19.

“We’re finally getting a bit on the other side of this, and now my crew will have to explain to everyone that we have to charge you a $0.10 bag fee where we weren’t charging you anything,” Maloney said. .

He added that the money generated from the fees goes back to the store, which gives the impression that the store is choosing to charge instead of being “forced” to do so.

Maloney also pointed out that the store should charge $0.10 for a bag for a bottle of liquor, just like it would for a larger bag of groceries.

“We are obliged to charge this money to the consumer at some point [when] we’re getting closer to $5 a gallon of gas,” Maloney said.

At a board meeting in June, Williams said the companies had also expressed concern about removing their existing bag stock and updating their point-of-sale systems to be able to charge. the bags.

Businesses were given the option to apply for six-month exemptions from the regulations to give them more time to prepare for the changes.

The Select Board granted two such exemptions to Julio’s Liquors and Boston Ski + Tennis.

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