The ban on plastic shopping bags in Great Barrington starts on March 1.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — As of March 1, supermarkets here will no longer bag groceries in those thin, plastic bags.
The town is the first in Berkshire County and just the fourth in the state to implement a ban on the ubiquitous bags.
The goal is to become more environmentally friendly and stores and town officials are asking shoppers to bring their own canvas bags when shopping.
"The town is really encouraging the use of reusable bags versus paper bags. We hope to reduce pollution to the land and the environment, reduce clogging of storm drainage systems and reduce the use of crude oil in manufacturing plastic bags," Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Town Hall.
Voters approved the ban last May and the town has been working with grocers and other stores to smoothly implement it. On March 1, any company still using plastic bags could be fined at $50 per day, $100 a day for a second violation and $200 per day for any future violations.
"I don't think they're going to be missed," said Selectman Andrew Blechman, recalling that some 15 years ago, the single-use bags weren't in any stores.
The ban may be new to Berkshire County but it isn't new to the world and town officials listed many countries and towns that have implemented similar bans. It was actually Manchester-by-the-Sea's bylaw the town adopted.
The restriction isn't on all plastic bags; it is on only those with a thickness of 2.5 millimeters or less. While the town sees it as a step for the environment, officials don't want shoppers to simply switch to paper.
"I think in the long run we really all win, if we can people to use reusable bags — if they go to paper we don't win as much," Selectmen Chairman Sean Stanton said.
Stanton said he heard very little resistance to the law, including from the major businesses that will be affected by the bylaw. The town officials were joined Tuesday by representatives from D'Amours Big Y, Price Chopper, Guidos and the Berkshire Co-op markets, who all voiced support for the move.
Berkshire Co-op manager Art Ames said the store began to charge 10 cents for paper bags in 2008 and donated the money to charity. In just doing that, he said, bag usage has gone down 70 percent despite the customer service base growing.
"It may be inconvenient at first but we all know it is the right thing," Ames said.
Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer services for Price Chopper, said the only way to implement such a ban is to have town officials, shoppers and the supermarkets collaborating together to roll it out. Now they need to raise awareness of the change so shoppers know what to expect.
"It's really been an honor for us to be at the table," she said.
Health Agent Mark Pruhenski has already begun raising awareness with a series of outreach sessions, an email blast and website updates, a high school class crafted signage and stickers and a volunteer has gone door to door among the businesses to inform them about the law.
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