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Big Y Plans to Eliminate Single-Use Plastic Bags in 2020

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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.

Tags: bag ban,   big y,   plastics,   supermarket,   

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Sticking to Budget Can Boost Your Emergency Fund

Submitted by Edward Jones

During the coronavirus pandemic, our health concerns – for ourselves and our loved ones – have been at the top of our minds. But financial worries have been there, too, both for people whose employment has been affected and for investors anxious about the volatile financial markets. 

And one aspect of every individual's total financial picture has become quite clear – the importance of an emergency fund.

In normal times, it's a good idea for you to keep three to six months' worth of living expenses in a liquid, low-risk account. Having an emergency fund available can help you cope with those large, unexpected costs, such as a major car repair or a costly medical bill.

Furthermore, if you have an adequate emergency fund, you won't have to dip into your long-term investments to pay for short-term needs. These investment vehicles, such as your IRA and 401(k), are designed for your retirement, so the more you can leave them intact, the more assets you are likely to have when you retire. And because they are intended for your retirement, they typically come with disincentives, including taxes and penalties, if you do tap into them early. (However, as part of the economic stimulus legislation known as the CARES Act, individuals can now take up to $100,000 from their 401(k) plans and IRAs without paying the 10 percent penalty that typically applies to investors younger than 59 1/2. If you take this type of withdrawal, you have up to three years to pay the taxes and, if you want, replace the funds, beyond the usual caps on annual contributions.)

Of course, life is expensive, so it's not always easy to put away money in a fund that you aren't going to use for your normal cash flow. That’s why it's so important to establish a budget and stick to it. When developing such a budget, you may find ways to cut down on your spending, freeing up money that could be used to build your emergency fund.

There are different ways to establish a budget, but they all typically involve identifying your income and expenses and separating your needs and wants. You can find various online budgeting tools to help you get started, but, ultimately, it's up to you to make your budget work. Nonetheless, you may be pleasantly surprised at how painless it is to follow a budget. For example, if you have budgeted a certain amount for food each month, you will need to avoid going to the grocery store several times a week, just to pick up "a few things" – because it doesn't really take that many visits for those few things to add up to hundreds of dollars. You will be much better off limiting your trips to the grocery, making a list of the items you need and adhering to these lists. After doing this for a few months, see how much you have saved – it may be much more than you would expect. Besides using these savings to strengthen your emergency fund, you could also deploy them toward longer-term investments designed to help you reach other objectives, such as retirement.

Saving money is always a good idea, and when you use your savings to build an emergency fund, you can help yourself prepare for the unexpected and make progress toward your long-term goals.

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