At the May 2016 Town Meeting, Town Meeting Representatives approved two warrant articles that contained new bylaws. The bylaws went into effect May 12, 2017.
- One bylaw provides for reducing the use of thin-film, plastic shopping bags. The October 2016 Special Town Meeting approved a technical fix to the bylaw. You can see the complete text as amended here.
- The other is intended to reduce the use of polystryene drink and food containers. You can see that complete bylaw here.
The provisions in the bylaws reflect research into the effects of the regulated products and considerable public input - from our open meetings, emails, surveys, and individual discussions. We tried to minimize the impact on people when they shop or get food or drinks outside of their homes. There will be changes: establishments will no longer received free plastic bags when they shop and they won't get food or drinks in polystyrene containers. Recognizing that some people reuse their plastic shopping bags for other purposes, we have drafted a list of options to replace plastic shopping bags for household uses and welcome other suggestions, which we will use to update the list.
The bylaws require establishments that have not yet stopped using the regulated products to do so. Establishments that cannot find approved alternatives for items they're using or face undue hardships in making the transition can apply to the Lee Board of Health through the Tri-Town Health Department for an exception or deferment, as provided for in the bylaws. In addition to the other documents cited below, we've developed and posted some tips for establishments.
We've prepared several documents that we hope will help residents, visitors, and establishments make a smooth transition to the new bylaws. These include a summary of the key provisions of the two bylaws (you can see it here), a guide to the bylaws just for consumers, Frequently Asked Questions, and even a PowerPoint slide show for consumers and establishments.
The bylaws will be enforced by the Lee Board of Health. The Lee Greener Gateway Committee (formerly the Lee Recycling Committee) and the Tri-Town Health Department, which comprises the staff of the Boards of Health in Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge, carried out an extensive business and public education program to help residents, businesses, and visitors transitioin to the implementation of the bylaws and will continue to support the transition.
A key provision in each bylaw required the Lee Board of Health to adopt a list of approved and available alternatives for the products covered. The Board of Health met in mid-November and approved such a list. You can see the complete, official list here. We created a summary of the list, which you can here.
Crucial to the successful implementation of the plastic shopping bag reduction bylaw will be the widespread use of reusable shopping bags. During the transition, we have distributed reusable bags to those who can least afford them and undertook activities to increase the use of reusable bags among the rest of the population. These activities information pieces, posters, and the sale of bags the Committee purchased. We cannot do this alone and are extremely grateful for contributions of bags from businesses and others in and outside of Lee. In fact, very early on we donated to the Lee Food Pantry two boxes of bags given to us by Blue Q in Pittsfield. And, during the Farmers Market "Green Day' last July, Lee Bank made available a box of bags. During Founders Weekend, Adams Bank passed out insulated,reusable bags. Please thank these organizations. And, of course, we welcome more contributions.
The Committee allocated a portion of last year's budget to purchase some all natural cotton reusable bags. You can see a picture of a bag here. We're pleased to report that we obtained two grants, one from the Massachusestts Department of Environmental Protection and one from the New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund, to purchase additional bags. And we've been able to use the proceeds from the bag sales to purchase more, bringing our total to over 500 bags. We provided more than 200 bags to the following organizations to distribute free to clients in need: the Lee Food Pantry, the Lee Council on Aging, the Literacy Network, and the Berkshire Immigrant Center. We are also selling the bags for $4 (below cost) at special events and through downtown merchants, including Carr Hardware, Karen Keenan's Gifts and Home, Lee Hardware, and Paperdilly. The bags are also availalbe at the Chamber of Commerce Information Booth (in the corner of the Church park).
In light of public comments made before the bylaws were drafted and adopted, we developed an insert for the reusable bags we're donating and selling through the downtown merchants. In addition, all the banks in Lee, plus Carr Hardware and Lee Hardware bags have agreed to put an insert in them and/or put the inserts on display before the bylaws go into effect. Several are doing it now.
If you have any questions about the bylaws or suggestions for the transition, please contact