Single-Use Plastics Ban

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Nantucket’s Single-Use Plastics Ban prohibits these single-use petroleum based plastic products from being commercially used, sold or distributed:

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  1. If you are not sure whether your business is in compliance with this bylaw, send us an email to schedule a free audit of your merchandise and/or ask any questions about the ban.
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Choose reusable options!

Here are some ideas to help Nantucket reduce plastic pollution:

Choose refillable water bottles. There are many water stations on Island.

water station

Choose refillable coffee pods for your brewing machine. Always use reusable mugs.


Use reusable straws. There are many options: glass, stainless steel, silicone, and bamboo.


What does the bylaw cover?

At a Special Town Meeting held on October 10, 2018, Town Meeting voted to adopt a bylaw banning certain single-use plastics from commercial sale or distribution, effective June 1, 2020. The bylaw was approved by the Attorney General and an internal Town Administration group is currently working on a public outreach campaign to educate the public and affected businesses as to the ban.

The bylaw prohibits the following single-use, petroleum-basedplastic products from being commercially sold or distributed:

  • Straws and drink stirrers
  • Six-pack can and bottle flexible yokes
  • Drinking cups and lids
  • Non-compostable plates and eating utensils
  • Drinking water in polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) containers of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less. Note: most single-use plastic water bottles are made of PETE, identifiable by the plastic resin code
  • Non-recyclable coffee pods
  • Please note, biodegradable packaging is already required under Nantucket’s 1990 Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw(§ 125-2.1).

Click here for the Sinlge-Use Plastics Bylaw.

WHO does the bylaw cover?

This bylaw is directed at commercial sales, distribution, and use of the products mentioned above. The sale of these items, as well as provision of these items as part of a commercial service, are included in this ban. This includes, but is not limited to, grocery stores, restaurants and takeout places, food trucks, liquor stores, gas stations, coffee shops, guesthouses, health clubs, yacht clubs and other clubs, caterers, event planners and non-profits’ events. Offices using these items for internal use are not subject to the bylaw. Similarly, individuals are not subject to the bylaw; however, we hope all will join in the spirit of the bylaw in reducing single-use plastic waste. We need everyone’s participation and consumer support to make the greatest difference.

WHY is the bylaw necessary?

The purpose of this bylaw is to protect Nantucket’s single-source aquifer, marine life, scenic visage, historical status, reduce litter, and protect the health and safety of present and future generations.

More than 10 million tons of plastics enter the ocean annually, and scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Plastics contribute hazards to human health, environmental health, and societal economies. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of plastics in the ocean are single-use items. Prevention through reducing plastic usage is the most effective management approach to mitigate plastic pollution.

Landfill space on Nantucket and elsewhere is rapidly diminishing and becoming increasingly expensive. Reducing the quantity of plastic waste we generate will extend the lifespan of Nantucket’s landfill and reduce the economic and environmental costs of managing plastic waste.

WHERE is the bylaw effective?

This bylaw applies to Nantucket Town and County.

WHEN is the bylaw effective?

This bylaw went into into effect on June 1, 2020.

HOW will I comply?

Speak with your supplier(s) about alternatives to single-use, petroleum-based plastics. Reach out to the Chamber of Commerce about a centralized purchasing plan they are working on. Begin to determine/research/review what items you can switch over to, now. For example, many food service establishments have already switched from plastic straws to paper and from plastic stirrers to wood or bamboo.

Thank you for supporting the health of our island and planet. As we begin our public outreach to educate businesses, residents and visitors as to the bylaw, we will be updating these FAQs as we go.

Emerging questions

Will I be fined if I am carrying a single-use PETE plastic water bottle around? 

No, this bylaw applies to COMMERCIAL use and distribution only. This bylaw will be enforced in commercial establishments, not on the streets or in people’s homes. However, we hope all will join in the spirit of the bylaw in reducing single-use plastic waste. We need everyone’s participation and consumer support to make the greatest difference. 

What is “drinking water”? Will I still be able to buy sparkling water?

Drinking water is plain, uncarbonated, unflavored water. Flavored water and carbonated water are not covered in this bylaw.

How will I stay hydrated if I cannot buy bottles of water?

There are numerous locations around the island where you can refill your water bottle, with additional filling stations planned: Additionally, only water in PET/PETE plastic is banned from in this bylaw, and some local businesses have already begun selling water in containers made from other materials. Using a reusable water is preferable in order to minimize waste from single-use items, as well as reduce carbon emissions associated with production and transportation of single-use items.

Will vending machines be allowed to sell bottled water?

Vending machines are commercial sale and distribution, and they will not be permitted to sell water containers of 1 liter or less made from PET/PETE plastic.

What about 4-pack flexible yokes for beverages?

Currently, 6-pack flexible yokes are the only yoke that is banned in the bylaw, though there is the possibility of adding additional items to the bylaw in the future. Rigid plastic yokes are also not covered by the bylaw, regardless of how many beverage containers they hold.

Can I bring these banned items from off-island or order them online?

Yes, as long as the items are for personal use and not commercial use and distribution, bringing these items in from off-island is permitted under the bylaw. However, again, we hope all will join in the spirit of the bylaw in reducing single-use plastic waste. We need everyone’s participation and consumer support to make the greatest difference.

How will this bylaw be enforced?

This bylaw will rely on complaint-based enforcement, as the Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw does.  

How does this relate to waste stream separation?

The objective of waste stream separation is to handle all waste in the most sustainable ways possible, within the limitations and unique challenges Nantucket faces pertaining to waste management. Reducing the amount of waste generated is the first, and most effective and efficient, step in minimizing our impact on the health of the natural environment, and in turn our own health. While there are single-use alternatives to each of the banned items, we encourage you to consider reusable alternatives to these items. This minimizes waste and reduces carbon emissions associated with production and transportation of single-use items.

Most compostable plastics need certain conditions in an industrial composter to break down, which Nantucket’s waste management facility at 188 Madaket Road may or may not meet. The Department of Public Works and Waste Options Nantucket are working on conducting research to better understand the capabilities of our Composter and composting process.

Cleaning up the Compostable Waste stream by keeping plastic and other non-biodegradable materials out of it, creates more possibilities for finding ways to properly handle compostable plastics locally.

For more information about how to sort your ‘trash’ visit:

How does this bylaw relate to the existing Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw?

Nantucket has an existing Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw, which is related to this Single-Use Plastics bylaw but covers packaging: The 2020-Plastics Ban Informal Work Group is looking into possibly merging the regulations for the Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw and this Single-Use Plastics Bylaw, as well as better understanding loopholes in the existing Biodegradable Packaging Bylaw regulations.

Why are nip bottles, 4-pack yokes, plastic plant pots, etc. not included in the ban?

Initially the proposed ban was more comprehensive than what was voted on at Special Town Meeting. In the future, there is the possibility for adding additional items to the bylaw.


Can my business use these items if they are made from compostable plastics, bamboo, or a natural fiber?

Yes, this bylaw prohibits petroleum-based plastics only; compostable plastics, bamboo and other natural materials are permitted. Most compostable plastics items are currently made from polylactic acid (PLA), though there are other types of compostable plastics. Regardless, all compostable plastic items indicate on the item that it is compostable. Please note: the terms “biodegradable” and “oxo-degradable” do not signify that a material is “compostable,” nor are those terms interchangeable for “compostable.”

This page was last updated on March 5, 2020.