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Starting March 12, Saugus businesses will be prohibited from distributing single-use plastic checkout bags and polystyrene food and beverage containers.

The Board of Health and Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree announced the local ban on plastic bags and polystyrene food containers in retail food service establishments and retail businesses will take effect on March 12, 2020.

Last May, Town Meeting members voted 27-14 in favor of implementing a plastic bag reduction bylaw that stipulates single-use plastic bags “shall not be distributed, used, or sold for checkout or other purposes at any retail store or grocery store within the Town of Saugus.”

By a vote of 31-9, Town Meeting members also approved the polystyrene food container reduction bylaw that prevents food establishments from handing out single-use disposable products for serving or transporting prepared, ready-to-consume food or beverages.

The Attorney General’s Office approved the two bylaws on Sept. 12 and they go into effect six months after that date.

Interim Health Director Robert Bracey issued a notice to all food establishments and retail businesses alerting them of when the bylaws will take effect.

Bracey’s communication spells out that the Saugus Health Department will start to enforce the two bylaws on March 12 during annual routine inspections.

Failure to comply with the new bylaws will result in the following penalties, Bracey explained:

• First offense equals a written warning

• Second offense is a fine of $50 per day

• Third Offense carries a fine of $100 per day

Businesses such as Stop & Shop at 164 Main St. are taking steps to comply with the bylaws. Stop & Shop announced that on Sunday, March 8, the store will give away 300 reusable bags to customers on a first come, first served basis in advance of the ban on single-use checkout plastic bags.

“Stop & Shop wants to help customers make the transition away from plastic - and encourages all customers to utilize reusable bags as it is the most sustainable choice for the environment,” Stop & Shop wrote in a press release.

The plastic bag reduction bylaw aims to protect the town’s unique natural beauty and its water and natural resources by eliminating single use plastic checkout bags and to promote reusable bags, according to Crabtree and the Board of Health.

Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment President Ann Devlin has voiced concern over the dangers that single-use plastic checkout bags and polystyrene pose to people and the environment.

Urging Town Meeting members to support the bylaws last spring, Devlin cautioned that plastic bags can break down into microplastics that harm wildlife. She also warned how polystyrene contains substances that can release carcinogenic toxic chemicals when heated, as well as petrochemicals known to harm people.

With the plastic bag reduction bylaw in place, checkout bags distributed at Saugus stores need to be either a recyclable paper bag or reusable checkout bag.

The bylaw still allows the use of thin-film plastic bags that contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and other similar merchandise.

Crabtree and the Board of Health thanked business owners and residents for their cooperation and compliance during the upcoming transitional period.

To learn more about the new bylaws go to https://www.saugus-ma.gov/board-health or contact the Saugus Health Department at 781-231-4117.

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