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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Meranti leads the library trustees through the historic building to explain some of its issues.
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