FAQs for Businesses

Frequently Asked Questions for Businesses:

How should I get ready for the ordinance going in to effect on March 31, 2016?

To help businesses prepare, we've created a checklist for business owners and retail managers to comply with the Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Ordinance.

Is the checkout bag charge taxable?

Yes, the checkout bag charge is subject to sales tax. The retail establishment keeps the charge.


Where can I get assistance finding a bag for my business?

What’s the plan for informing customers of the ordinance?

The City is doing outreach via social media, news outlets, and billboards in Cambridge. But, a lot of the outreach must be done in retail establishments. To assist with that, we provided checkout stickers and flyers. Cashiers should ask: “Did you bring a reusable bag, or would you like a bag for $0.10 each plus tax?” This is a best practice in other cities with bag ordinances. The statement will remind customers to bring reusable bags and avoid any confusion about the cost of bags.



May we offer a discount to customers bringing their own reusable bag?

Yes! In fact, we strongly encourage this to further incentivize waste reduction.



What if my paper bag doesn’t have handles?

The spirit of the law is to help change the consumption habits of consumers. Therefore, we strongly encourage retailers to ask customers if they absolutely need a bag regardless of whether the bag falls under the ordinance or not. If there aren’t handles the bag does not fall under the ordinance.



I own a restaurant/food establishment; does this ordinance apply to me?

Yes, if your business provides bags with handles at checkout. If a restaurant provides a bag with handles for take-out, delivery, or food to-go from an in-house meal there must be a charge for the bag.



Are any bags exempted from this ordinance?

Yes, the following bags are exempt:

a) bags, whether plastic or not, in which loose produce or products are placed by a consumer to deliver such items to the point of sale or check-out area of a Retail Establishment;
b) laundry or dry-cleaner bags;
c) newspaper bags;
d) bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish, whether prepackaged or not, to prevent or contain moisture.



What if my paper bags don’t display the proper information?

Contact your supplier to ask for “legislatively compliant bags.” Be sure the correct information is displayed on the bag. If you are unable to get bags that display the correct info, please contact Michael Orr at DPW.



What if there is no reasonable alternative to the bags I provide currently?

You may apply for an exemption, which is available online.



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Dept of Public Works

147 Hampshire St
Cambridge MA 02139

Phone:617.349.4800
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