SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Both Berkshire County cities last year spent months, if not years, talking about banning single-use plastic bags but they might find business is moving ahead of them.
Big Y Foods Inc., one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England, will eliminate its use of the bags from all 70 of its markets, specialty stores and Big Y Express Gas and Convenience locations in 2020.
That decision was prompted, in part, by local towns that have already prohibited the use of the bags. The 83-year-old company says it has been complying with bag bans in Adams (which launched a free bag initiative), Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton and South Hadley since 2014.
"Customers in those communities are delighted with the ban, are supportive of environmentally responsible business practices and have been strong proponents of using reusable bags as an alternative to plastic and paper. Big Y's experience within these six markets prompted officials to evaluate the possibility of a chain-wide ban," according to a press release announcing the grocer's decision.
The supermarket has locations in North Adams and Pittsfield, and both cities and the other towns also have other grocers and department stores. Aldis and Price Rite either do not supply or charge for bags and Price Chopper has complied with local bans and encouraged customers to shift to reusables.
Pittsfield is still sitting on a potential ordinance banning the wide use of the bags while North Adams councilors determined to wait until the state made a move before instituting any prohibitions. One concern was the cost of replacing the bags with sturdier, reusable bags that can cost anywhere from 99 cents to $5.
Big Y says it will be offering discounted pricing and promotions on its reusable bags throughout 2019 to help customers transition.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year. If not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm fish, marine animals, birds and other wildlife. Big Y uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags, which also are harmful to the environment, at its checkouts each year.
"Single-use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long-term solution for our stores," Richard D. Bossie, Big Y vice president of store operations, said in the statement. "Our customers and the communities we serve have made it quite clear that they prefer more environmentally friendly alternatives. We look forward to implementing this new program in all of our retail locations."
Reusable bags that can be washed regularly or disinfected with wipes are more sustainable, Big Y officials believe.
Big Y currently collects single-use plastic bags from customers at each store and sends them to recycling plants for use in decking. Other sustainability efforts include almost daily donations to the five food banks within Big Y’s marketing area including meat, produce and bakery items. Big Y locations also participate in paper and cardboard recycling programs and composting.
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Remote Work May Offer Financial Benefits
Submitted by Edward Jones
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been forced to work from home. But once we've moved past the virus, many workers may continue working from home. More than one-third of companies with employees who started working from home now think that remote work will stay more common post-pandemic, according to a Harvard Business School study. This shift to at-home work can affect people's lives in many ways – and it may end up providing workers with some long-term financial advantages.
If you're one of those who will continue working remotely, either full time or at least a few days a week, how might you benefit? Here are a few possibilities:
Reduced transportation costs – Over time, you can spend a lot of money commuting to and from work. The average commuter spends $2,000 to $5,000 per year on transportation costs, including gas, car maintenance, public transportation and other expenses, depending on where they live, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. If you are going to work primarily from home, you should be able to greatly reduce these costs.
Potentially lower car insurance premiums – Your auto insurance premiums are partially based on how many miles you drive each year. So, if you were to significantly reduce these miles by working from home, you might qualify for lower rates.
Lower expenditures on lunches – If you typically eat lunch in restaurants or get takeout while at work, you could easily be spending $50 or more per week – even more if you regularly get coffee drinks to go. By these figures, you could end up spending around $3,000 a year. Think how much you could reduce this bill by eating lunch at home during your remote workday.
Lower clothing costs – Despite the rise in "casual dress" days, plenty of workers still need to maintain appropriate office attire. By working from home, you can "dress down," reducing your clothing costs and dry-cleaning bills.
As you can see, it may be possible for you to save quite a bit of money by working from home. How can you use your savings to help meet your long-term financial goals, such as achieving a comfortable retirement?
For one thing, you could boost your investments. Let's suppose that you can save $2,500 each year by working remotely. If you were to invest this amount in a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA or your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan and earned a hypothetical 6 percent annual return for 20 years, you'd accumulate more than $97,000 – and if you kept going for an additional 10 years, you'd have nearly $210,000. You'd eventually pay taxes on the amount you withdrew from these accounts (and withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty), but you'd still end up pretty far ahead of where you'd be otherwise.)
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