Plastic Bag and Polystyrene Ban

City of GLOUCESTER Ordinance 

An INITIATIVE of Gloucester Clean City Commission


Seaside Sustainability has teamed up with Gloucester’s Clean City Commission, under the leadership of City Councillors Melissa Cox & Sean Nolan, to enact a ban in Gloucester on all single use plastic bags and polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers (like coffee cups and takeout food containers). This initiative is imperative in maintaining the beauty and health of our coastal city’s land & marine spaces.  Considering the availability of biodegradable and reusable alternatives, as well as the economic benefits of the proposed ordinance, through this partnership we will work to educate the citizens of Gloucester in order to accomplish this goal collaboratively.   The ban on both, plastic bags and polystyrene, will be put into effect on January 1, 2019.



Cape Ann Report - Interview with Gloucester City Councillor Melissa Cox, Gloucester Clean City Commission member & Seaside Sustainability Director Eric Magers, and Seaside Sustainability Project Assisstant John Dello Russo regarding Gloucester's proposed plastic bag and polystyrene container ban, an initiative of the City of Gloucester's Clean City Commission.

Local Youth Join The Effort

Students from Gloucester High school and Landmark School dropped off information letters about the proposed Plastic Bag & Polystyrene Ban Ordinance & gathered petition signatures at local Gloucester businesses as we gained support and tried to get the word out for this important cause.



Too Many Bags

Momentary convenience, permanent damage

Plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, but a single plastic bag has a life expectancy of up to 1,000 years. 

Every year, Americans discard 100 billion single-use plastic bags.  Almost 15.3 million plastic bags are used annually in Gloucester alone. 

Coastal Towns Lead the Way

Plastic Bag & Polystyrene Ordinances

Cities and towns along the coast of the U.S. have been particularly vigilant in implementing similar bans, and between 2015 and 2016, 23 states proposed regulations of single use plastic bags and/or polystyrene. The proposed Gloucester ordinance is similar to those already passed in dozens of cities and towns in Massachusetts, including our neighbors Ipswich, Manchester, Marblehead, and Newburyport.  The importance becomes especially relevant considering a recent investigation of Gloucester Harbor using an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) in which observers reported abundant plastic bags and Styrofoam cups littering the ocean floor.


By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish. A recent study found that 25% of fish sold in supermarkets contain plastic debris. 
— International Journal of Scientific Reports

Click to enlarge info graphic, courtesy of One World One Ocean

Hurting future Generations

Non-renewable destruction

Plastic bags are created from non-renewable resources and contribute to global warming. More than 1.6 billion gallons of oil are required annually for plastic bag production.   The plastic bags used in Gloucester alone are responsible for the emissions of 407.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. 

Plastic bags are destroying our oceans. Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic debris enters the world’s oceans each year.

Plastic bags kill wildlife. Bags are often mistaken as food by both domestic and wild animals and prove fatal when digested. As microscopic particles, plastic displaces plankton in the marine food chain.

53 cities and towns in Massachusetts have passed bag bans.


Read the ordinances

Plastic Bag Ordinance

Polystyrene Ordinance


Read the Information Letter to Gloucester Business Owners

Dear Gloucester Business Owner

 Plastic bags are a major source of litter. Even when disposed properly, bags end up in trees, gutters, roadsides, and waterways thanks to their light weight and aerodynamic qualities.

Plastic bags are a major source of litter. Even when disposed properly, bags end up in trees, gutters, roadsides, and waterways thanks to their light weight and aerodynamic qualities.

For more information, or with questions, contact Eric Magers:

 Landmark School students photographed outside Jim's Bagels in Gloucester.

Landmark School students photographed outside Jim's Bagels in Gloucester.

The Gloucester Clean City Commission consists of local city of Gloucester members appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. These committed and passionate individuals serve to keep the city of Gloucester beautiful by organizing and directing volunteer efforts, working with all city departments, and keeping the Mayor and appropriate city departments informed of the maintenance and beautification needs of public property.  In particular, the GCCC has initiated numerous sustainability initiatives to fulfill their community beautification roles.  

Keep up with GCCC on Facebook at Clean Gloucester or on the City of Gloucester website..

Over the course of the summer of 2017, Program Assistant John Dello Russo was hard at work supporting and organizing the efforts to get the, at the time, proposed single use plastic bag and polystyrene bans passed in Gloucester. With the help of the rest of the Seaside team, his efforts have included:

John DR.jpg
  • Organizing outreach to residents of Gloucester at the Cape Ann Farmer’s Market to obtain petition signatures in support of the bans
  • Engaging with 420 local businesses who received letters stating the advantages of the bans 
  • Creation of the ordinances that were submitted to the city council for consideration 
  • Taping & participating in a segment on Cape Ann TV to magnify the important message that both bans carry

John’s work has helped to pushed this initiative forward and we know that the work of all involved will go along way to making Gloucester a more sustainable community. 

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As Founder and Director of The Mass Green Network, Brad Verter has worked tirelessly to provide one of the most effective peer-to-peer grassroots network in the country, with resources and environmental legislation templates available to those who want to make a difference. Brad provided an invaluable and strategic partnership to Seaside as we tried to pass the single use plastic bag and polystyrene bans proposed for Gloucester. His expertise gained from working on numerous other campaigns has helped make Gloucester the next municipality in line to take a stand for our fight for a greener future. Please visit The Mass Green Network at to learn more about their fight to green Massachusetts. We want to thank Brad again for all of his great work and we look forward to working with him in the future to make Cape Ann a leader in sustainability. 


Working on behalf of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, Clint Richmond has also fought for our environmental future. His eye for legislative writing has been important as Seaside has worked to craft the ordinances for the single use plastic bag and polystyrene bans. Clint’s insight and suggestions have gone a long way to make sure the ordinances presented are the strongest possible. With the Sierra Club, Clint is working on the proposed statewide bill to that requires local food packaging to be reusable, compostable or recyclable, which would further cement Massachusetts at the forefront of the environmental movement. To learn more about the bill and what you can do to help please visit for more information.