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Posted on: October 1, 2018


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Legal Notice - Amendments to the Town of Winchester General Code of By-Law

ARTICLE 2, 2018 Spring Town Meeting - Voted, to add Chapter 22 to the Code of By-Laws of the Town of Winchester

Dear Winchester Business Owner:

As you may know, Winchester Town Meeting Members approved the Plastic Bag Reduction By-Law in April 2018, with the goals of reducing solid waste, minimizing litter, and protecting our waterways and wildlife. This by-law affects all Winchester retail establishments that utilize checkout bags as part of their business. The full text of the by-law is available on our website and a list of vendors that provide by-law-compliant paper and reusable bags is included with this letter. For your review, the following are by-law highlights:

Timing (when the by-law will take effect):

  • November 1, 2018: Stores that have a floor area of 4,500 square feet or larger. 
  • May 1, 2019: Stores less than 4,500 square feet.

Plastic bags: The new by-law prohibits the distribution or sale of disposable, plastic checkout bags that are less than or equal to 4 mils thick. The bylaw does not prohibit bags without handles, such as those used to carry loose produce, meat or fish, bulk foods or wet items to checkout areas. Bags used to hold newspapers and dry cleaning bags are also not prohibited. Non-retail businesses such as, medical or dental offices, are not covered by the by-law. However, we request that all business owners refrain from distributing plastic bags because they cause environmental damage and are not accepted for recycling by the Winchester Transfer Station. 

Paper bags: The new by-law requires that all paper checkout bags be 100 percent recyclable and made with at least 40 percent post-consumer recycled material. Paper bags must be visibly labeled with this information to comply with the by-law. Please note that paper prescription bags are exempt.

Reusable bags: The by-law promotes the use of reusable bags as the best solution for our environment and outlines specifications for bags that may be distributed or sold as “reusable.” The purpose of these specifications is to avoid distribution of bags that are not truly reusable for the long-term.

Enforcement: The Town Manager and/or designee will enforce the by-law through written warning notices and fines for continued non-compliance. Stores that require additional time to work down excess inventory may apply for an extension.

At a later date, a citizen volunteer group known as “Shop Local and Bring Your Own Bag,” will be contacting you to explore ways to encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags and shop downtown more regularly. In the meantime, we would be glad to answer any questions about the by-law requirements. We look forward to working with you.


Richard Howard

Town Manager


Shop Local and Bring Your Own Bag

Thank you for your efforts to reduce Winchester’s use of plastic bags! As many of you know, Town Meeting voted to say “Goodbye” to disposable plastic checkout bags. The bylaw becomes effective in November 2018 for retail businesses over 4,500 square feet, and in May 2019 for businesses less than 4,500 square feet. Remember, the bylaw only applies to disposable plastic checkout bags. Plastic bags for meats, vegetables, bulk food, dry cleaning and newspapers can still be provided.

Make the switch to reusable bags

Does this mean a switch from plastic to paper bags? We hope not. The best option is to switch to reusable bags, not paper. Reusable bags are light, durable, washable, and can carry three to four times the amount of weight of a disposable bag. Using reusable bags conserves energy, reduces waste, lessens litter, and promotes a cleaner Winchester.

How can I help?

Be a role model to others by using reusable bags. Here are some steps to help you make the transition:

  • Keep your reusable shopping bags in a location where you will remember them as you leave the house, i.e., on the door knob or in your car.
  • Get in the habit of keeping a small foldup reusable bag in your purse or backpack. That way you’ll always have it.
  • Think beyond the grocery. Bring a reusable bag to all stores, not just when food shopping.

Once at the store:

  • Bring two more reusable bags than you think you’ll need into the store.
  • Let the shop keeper know that you have a reusable bag.
  • If you have just one or two items, go bag-less.
  • If you’re buying more items than you can carry without a bag, ask the retailer to use as few bags as possible.

Hints for Retailers:

  • Ask shoppers if they need a bag. When asked, many shoppers will say they don’t.
  • Sell reusable bags at or near the checkout counter.
  • Thank customers for bringing in their own bag.
  • Have a reminder sign on your door and/or counter.


Remember: this is a community effort. If you remember your reusable bag, others will too!



Following is a partial list of companies that sell paper bags which meet the bylaw’s requirements (100% recyclable, minimum of 40% post-consumer recycled content and labeled as such – please see the bylaw for details).

Stewart’s Packaging –

Novolex (Duro Bag Brand) –

American Retail Supply –

Packaging Specialists (Newburyport, MA) –

Following is a partial list of companies that sell reusable bags which meet the bylaw’s requirements (durable, sewn bag with stitched handles, manufactured and designed for multiple uses and that can be washed or wiped and disinfected regularly – please see the bylaw for details). (examples of bags below) (example of bags below) (example of bag below) (example of bags below) (example of bags below) (example of bag below)

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