Haverhill Preps for Feb. 7 Start of Plastic Bag Ban: What You Need to Know

Haverhill plans to ban plastic checkout bags during a roll-out period based on store size starting Feb. 7. Seniors can receive a reusable bag free of charge at several area locations. (Courtesy photograph)

Authorized by the City Council last summer, Haverhill’s ban on single-use plastic bags is set to go into effect on Thursday, Feb. 7. On that date, the City of Haverhill plans to begin enforcing the ban in locations with more than 8,000 square feet or more of retail space like Market Basket. “Medium-sized” businesses—those with 3,000-8,000 square feet, have until May 7 to comply.

In August, Haverhill joined more than 80 municipalities across the Commonwealth to rid their city of the bags given out in store checkout lines. As a result of the ban, shoppers who do to carry their own reusable bags may purchase them from the retailer at a charge of at least 5 cents. Plastic laundry or dry-cleaner bags, newspaper bags or bags to wrap frozen foods, meat or fish are exempt from the ban.

City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett, a supporter of the ban, said residents—herself included—will eventually adjust.

“I think it will be an adjustment for some people. I don’t think it’s an overwhelming adjustment—I use those bags as trash—but I can use something else. It’s not the be-all, end-all,” Barrett reasoned. “It just takes a change of habit and it’s the right thing to do.”

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said the step to go green opens the door to future eco-friendly efforts.

“It’s always hardest when you have to make that first step, but we did it with recycling and we can do it with this. And next, I’m going after straws and stirrers! What’s wrong with a paper straw and a wooden stirrer? Let’s go retro!” O’Brien said in jest.

In an effort to assist Haverhill’s over-65 residents, Mayor James J. Fiorentini adopted a provision whereby the city is issuing one reusable bag to all seniors free of charge. Canvas bags may be picked up during regular business hours at the Welcome Street Citizens Center, the DPW on Primrose Street or the Mayor’s Office at City Hall.