After months of discussion, the New Bedford City Council has unanimously approved a measure that would ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags at most of the city's retail locations.

Now the ordinance heads to Mayor Jon Mitchell, and he has ten days to sign the measure to make it law.

The plastic bag ban applies to any commercial entity with retail space over 10,000 feet, or with at least two locations under the same name in the city totaling 10,000 square feet of space. Retail stores, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, liquor stores, and seasonal and temporary and seasonal businesses must all comply.

The ordinance defines single-use plastic bags as any "plastic film-type bag with or without handles, which is 4 mils thick or less." Establishments will have 18 months to get rid of their current stock of such plastic bags.

The fines for non-compliance are $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for any subsequent offense.

According to the Sierra Club, 134 Massachusetts communities have already instituted such bans. They say the bags are harmful to wildlife, that they clog stormwater and wastewater systems, end up in rivers and oceans, and are harmful to wildlife. The bags never fully biodegrade, and eventually crumble into harmful "microplastics," environmentalists say. Due to way they are constructed, the so-called "T-shirt bags" often float through the air and become stuck in tree branches.

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