Clearwater Biodegradable Packaging and Litter Reduction Law

An amalgam of various plastic waste stream regulatory initiatives by citizens concerned about plastic trash decomposing in sunlight is presented. Every word excluding connecting sentences has been signed off by an Attorney General. This amalgam, including connecting sentences, has been approved by one Town Attorney, twice. It has not been presented for a vote. This work results from searching for such a thing already done and is offered here as a tool for those who may want a place to start.


Ninety-nine word summary

The Clearwater Biodegradable Packaging and Litter Reduction Law is designed to control litter and reduce plastic trash using a managed waste stream. Elimination of single-use plastic bags by larger scale retail establishments is a primary purpose of this ordinance. Additionally, Clearwater citizens realize that no one foresaw the consequences of single-use water bottles, plastic bags, cigarette butts, incinerated waste and other plastic trash swept to the sea by rivers and wind, yet these consequences exist and motivate the community of Clearwater to enact this law to protect the health of the town, the watershed and the Earth.



Petition to Clearwater Town Council requesting passage of this plastic waste and litter control law,
filed with affidavits,
pursuant to the Clearwater Town Charter
To be enacted by the initiative of the citizens of clearwater and their loyal government

Purpose and Intent of Ordinance

The Citizens of Clearwater recognize that discarded packaging constitutes a large portion of the waste in the town waste stream and is, therefore, a necessary focus of any effort towards reducing the economic and environmental costs of waste management. Non-compostable packaging and plastic contained within the waste stream of Clearwater is a fundamental cause of problems associated with solid waste disposal methods.

The Citizens of Clearwater understand that solid waste receiving areas are becoming increasingly uncertain and expensive, and that much of the plastic collected as recyclable is incinerated and converted to energy. The Town also knows that single-use styrofoam and styrene products reach incinerators through the plastic trash bag waste stream, and when discarded as litter become part of the trash collected in the annual Connecticut River Watershed Cleanup.

Citizens of Clearwater specifically state that elimination of single-use plastic bags by larger scale bag using retail establishments in the Town of Clearwater is a primary purpose of this ordinance, as well as promotion of reusable bag use by Clearwater Citizens and to generate revenues for investment in public works to upgrade sanitation, solid waste disposal, curbside compost pickup and related future composting facilities designed to facilitate elimination of plastic trash bags from the Clearwater waste stream.

In addition, Clearwater Citizens believe measures to simplify the chemical complexity of solid waste and thereby streamline solid waste management to avoid contamination of the air and climate disruption must also be vigorously pursued for personal, family and public health reasons.

Citizens of Clearwater know that the chemical composition and ability of a substance to biodegrade to beneficial compost free of harmful gasses and residues are meaningful and useful criteria to focus upon when establishing public policy that is intended to

  1. improve the management and disposal of solid waste,
  2. reduce the cumulative impact of litter,
  3. encourage reusable products, composting and other forms of recycling, and
  4. otherwise anticipate environmental problems that may be caused by municipal solid waste disposal programs.

The Town further finds that the widespread use of plastics and non-biodegradable packaging poses a threat to the environment and health of the people by the possible introduction of toxic by-products into the air and general environment. Clearwater is located in a valley that fills with incineration contaminants which cause a local health risk. For these reasons, Citizens of Clearwater are concerned and enact this ordinance in accord with authority of the Town Charter.

The economic and environmental problems associated with the mixed substance waste stream are so severe that with passage of this ordinance a program to incrementally simplify the chemical composition of solid waste is a zero waste policy goal of the Town of Clearwater, thereby directing official focus to a goal of sustainability, encouraging the composting of biodegradable wastes and substitution to compostable materials and encouraging other forms of recycling of solid waste substances.

Certain retail establishments within the Town of Clearwater are points of origin for a substantial volume of packaging waste and, therefore, are functionally amenable to actions which have significant potential for simplifying the chemical composition of the waste stream. The town recognizes that there are readily available reusable, paper or biodegradable product substitutes for most of the retail packaging now being used, and that official encouragement of these alternatives will be environmentally and economically advantageous to the community of Clearwater.

Clearwater Citizens also know that production and use of single-serving PET drinking water bottles contribute to excessive non-biodegradable content in the material disposal stream managed by the department of Public Works. Additionally, the majority of single-use water bottles are not recycled and are carried by rivers to the ocean, where they become a portion of hazardous ocean litter, which is regularly consumed by marine animals or fed to their young, resulting in death by intestinal blockage and starvation.

The Citizens of Clearwater realize that no one foresaw or considered the consequences of marine animal deaths from single-use water bottles, plastic bags and other plastic trash swept to the sea by rivers and wind, yet these consequences exist and motivate the Community of Clearwater to declare promotion of safe public tap water in reusable containers, water fountains and other sanitary dispensers is also a central purpose of this ordinance.

Therefore, the purpose of this ordinance is to incrementally, to the maximum extent possible, eliminate the use of non-biodegradable single-use packaging originating at retail establishments, in the Town of Clearwater, in order to protect the air, land, and waters of the town and surrounding valley from environmental contamination and degradation. Additionally, with the implementation of this ordinance, it will be increasingly possible for Clearwater to become a zero-waste community and contribute to a world effort to control pollution and reverse climate degradation.

Section 1 General Definitions.

1.1 Packaging - shall mean all food and retail related point of sale wrappings, adhesives, cords, bindings, strings, bags, boxes, barrels, containers, portable styrofoam coolers, and disposable or non-reusable plates, cups, or drinking utensils intended for use within the Town of Clearwater.

1.2 single-use potable water bottle - shall mean any plastic single-use container of one liter (34 ounces) or less, commonly a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle.

1.3 Biodegradable Packaging - shall mean packaging other than plastic or styrofoam which composts into beneficial breakdown components.

1.4 Recyclable - Material that can be sorted, cleansed, and reconstituted using available recycling collection programs for the purpose of using the altered form in the manufacture of a new product. “Recycling” does not include burning, incinerating, converting, or otherwise thermally destroying solid waste in a manner that creates harmful gasses or residues.

1.5 Retail Establishment - shall mean all sales outlets, stores, shops or other places of business located within the Town of Clearwater which sell or convey merchandise directly to the ultimate consumer and are larger in gross size than 7,500 square feet.

1.6 Retail Food Establishment- shall mean all sales outlets, stores, shops, restaurants, clubs or other places of business located within the Town of Clearwater greater than 1,750 square feet which sell, serve or convey foods directly to the ultimate consumer. This definition shall include but is not limited to any place where food is prepared, mixed, cooked, baked, smoked, preserved, bottled, packaged, handled, stored, manufactured, sold or offered to the public; similar places in which food or drink is prepared for sale or service on the premises or elsewhere; and any other establishment or operation, including in-home caterers, where food is processed, prepared, stored, served or provided for the public regardless of whether there is a charge for the food.

1.7 Retail Service Establishments - shall mean all places of business located within the Town of Clearwater where a service, specialized or professional work, is offered to the public regardless of whether there is a charge for the service.

1.8 Merchandise - shall mean products that are purchased in the retail stores.

1.9 Litter - shall mean non-compostable or toxic single-use products including all cigarette butts and plastic cigar holders.

1.10 Littering - shall mean casual random disposal of single-use products in a public place and is not to be construed as dumping.

Section 2 Shopping Bag Definitions.

2.1 “Thin-film single-use plastic bags”, typically with plastic handles, are bags with a thickness of 2.5 mils or less and are intended for single-use transport of purchased products.

2.2 “ASTM standard” a testing standard developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

2.3 “Biodegradable bag” means a bag that: 1) contains no polymers derived from fossil fuels; and 2) is intended for single-use and will decompose in a natural setting to an environmentally beneficial material at a rate comparable to other biodegradable materials such as paper, leaves, and food waste.

2.4 “Reusable bag” means a bag, with handles, that is specifically designed for multiple use and is made of thick recyclable plastic, cloth, fabric or other durable materials that do not decompose into harmful chemical components. A recyclable or compostable bag with handles that is 1) specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse and is machine washable or is made from a material that can be cleaned or disinfected; 2) does not contain lead, cadmium, or any other heavy metal in toxic amounts; 3) if made of plastic, is a minimum of 2.51 mils thick and recyclable per section 1.4.

Section 3 General Prohibition and Regulation.

3.1 No retail establishment or retail food establishment above the defined sizes in sections 1.5 and 1.6 located and doing business within the Town of Clearwater shall sell or convey merchandise to ultimate consumers within the Town of Clearwater unless such merchandise is sold without additional packaging or placed, wrapped or packaged in reusable or biodegradable packaging at the conclusion of any sales transaction which takes place on the premises of such retail establishment at or near a sales counter or equivalent customer purchasing station but prior to removal of such merchandise from the premises of such retail establishment, in accord with the following Sections.

3.2 No retail food establishment as defined in section 1.6 located and doing business within the Town of Clearwater shall give, sell, or provide food containers or single-use utensils to any customer within the Town of Clearwater unless they are composed of biodegradable and readily compostable materials.

3.3 Any person smoking tobacco products in any as otherwise permitted by State law public place must carry a personal ashtray or be within arm length reach of an ashtray provided for disposal of tobacco ash, used filters and unfiltered tobacco remains.

Section 4 Reusable Bag Promotion.

4.1 Thin-film single-use plastic bags shall not be distributed, used, or sold for checkout or other purposes at any retail establishment above defined sizes in sections 1.5 and 1.6 within the Town of Clearwater.

4.2 Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable or biodegradable shopping bags to stores. Retail establishments may provide fabric or other types of reusable bags as defined here-in at no charge. Retail establishments will collect a 10¢ Town fee for paper bags and are strongly encouraged to make reusable bags available for sale to customers at a reasonable price.

4.3 With passage of this ordinance the Citizens of Clearwater register the urgency of a zero waste goal by directing bag fees to the Department of Public Works for upgrade of composting facilities, curbside compost pick-up, public drinking water fountains and sanitation.

4.4 To stimulate reusable bag usage, subsequent to a letter of application, the Mayor or mayoral delegate may approve an annual grant for retention by the retail outlet of up to five percent of the 10¢ per paper bag customer reminder fee as assistance to promote reusable bag use.

Section 5 Public Drinking Water Promotion.

5.1 It shall be unlawful to sell non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-use plastic potable water bottles one Liter or less in the Town of Clearwater on or after the effective approval date of this ordinance.

5.2 Sales occurring subsequent to a declaration of an emergency adversely affecting the availability and/or quality of drinking water to Clearwater residents by the Emergency Management Director or other duly-authorized Town, Commonwealth or United States official shall be exempt from this ordinance until seven days after such declaration has ended.

Section 6 Exemptions.

Sections 3 of this regulation shall not apply to the following items:

6.1 Thin-film plastic bags used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce, meat, bulk foods, wet items and other similar merchandise, typically without handles, are still permissible.

6.2 Any flexible transparent covering for uncooked or raw meat, poultry, raw fish, hard cheese, cold cuts, fruit, and vegetable products, baked goods, or bread;

6.3 Any food packaging used during direct patient care at hospitals or nursing homes;

6.4 Any plastic covers, covering materials, or lids that are not replaceable by biodegradable substitutes;

6.5 Any other packaging that is non-biodegradable for which there is no available substitute.

6.6 Any packaging which was purchased by the retail establishments prior to passage of this ordinance. Proof of the date of purchase of such packaging must be presented upon request.

6.7 All household and commercial waste taken to the transfer station (including construction and demolition debris, landscaping debris, appliances, furniture and hazardous waste, such as paint, ink, agricultural and household chemicals) must be disposed of as directed at waste transfer station gate.

Section 7 Administration and Enforcement.

7.1 Vendors defined in sections 1.5 and 1.6 shall keep records of paper bag purchases and pay 10¢ per bag to the Town of Clearwater quarterly. There is nothing intended or implied in this ordinance that prohibits vendors from charging the customer more than 10¢ per bag. The Citizens of Clearwater know and understand that retail establishments already pay for paper bags and this per bag levy is directed at changing customer behavior. Additionally, Clearwater Citizens believe changing to reusable shopping bags will reduce bag expenses more than the cost differential between plastic and paper bags that are supplied at 10¢ each to customers who forget their reusable bags.

7.2 Town Council shall establish an application process to be administered by the Mayor and make official determinations as to the classification of new single-use bag products, as they come on the market, to determine if they are verifiably compostable and degrade to non-toxic components and meet, or exceed, ASTM D6400 for compostable plastic.

7.3 A primary purpose of this ordinance is to reduce solid waste by promoting reusable bags; if, after two years of experience, the Mayor determines the 10¢ paper bag fee is insufficient incentive to promote reusable bags, the Mayor may request Town Council to approve additional increases of 5¢ per paper bag via the standard budget submission process and inform affected retail establishments upon approval.

7.4 The Mayor’s office or delegated Town agency under the Mayor’s office is responsible for enforcement of this ordinance and issuance of a violation notice. Casual littering penalties shall be equivalent to a standard parking overtime violation and may be issued by parking patrol officers as well as police officers. Citations for littering may be preceded by a first violation warning.

7.5 Whoever violates any provision of this regulation may be penalized through the Housing Court Division of the Trial Court by the non-criminal method of disposition as provided for in the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40, Section 21D.

7.6 For each day the violation is in effect at any retail establishment, as defined in sections 1.5 to 1.7, the following penalties shall apply: 1) First violation, a warning shall be given; 2) a second violation within 12 months from the original violation will incur a $50 fine; 3) in the case of three (3) or more violations within a 12-month period, a fine of $300 per day shall be incurred for each day that such violation shall continue. The third violation notice will be considered reissued for each day that the activity persists until the violation is corrected. A tolling period of one (1) year from the last violation shall reset the penalty schedule back to the lowest level.

Section 8 Appeal Process.

In the event of an appeal, as provided for in M.G.L. Chapter 40, Section 21D, that appeal shall be brought before a hearing of the Division of Housing Court, Department of the Trial Court.

Section 9 Severability.

If any provision of this ordinance is declared invalid or unenforceable, the other provisions shall not be affected thereby but shall continue in full force and effect.

Section 10 Effective Date and Implementation Schedule.

10.1 This ordinance shall go into effect upon approval of the voters of Clearwater or such later date upon which it is approved by the State Attorney General.

10.2 Large retail chains shall reconfigure checkout areas and implement this ordinance four months after a positive vote and resulting required approval.

10.3 Smaller affected vendors shall eliminate single-use plastic products described in this ordinance and begin charging for paper bags six months after approval of this ordinance.

10.4 A thirty day extension may be granted by the Mayor upon written request from a retail vendor.

10.5 Littering provisions of this ordinance become effective immediately subsequent to required approvals.