SPRINGFIELD-Saving the planet – one plastic bag at a time – is the latest initiative for Big Y Foods, Inc.
Starting Aug. 1, single-use plastic bags will be eliminated at the checkouts from Big Y’s supermarket and specialty store locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The grocer is currently offering discounts on reusable bags through August as customers transition away from plastic.
“Since we started the promotion of buying one reusable bag, getting one free last Thursday, sales in the region have been tremendous,” said Raanan Hartman, Big Y’s sales merchandising mentor.
Hartman added that feedback he has heard has been mostly positive from customers.
“Many of our customers are excited about this change and what is important is doing the right thing for the planet,” said Hartman.
In a statement, Big Y noted it has been complying with single-use plastic bag bans in several Massachusetts communities since 2014, and has moved up its 2020 timeline to eliminate the bags to streamline operations and to do its part to support sustainability. Also, by implementing this ban, Big Y stores will end distributing 100 million plastic bags each year.
Richard D. Bossie, senior vice president of operations and customer experience, said the company is always considering ways to make smart decisions about the resources and energy used.
“By working with our shoppers, we can further reduce consumption to make a difference in and around the tight-knit communities that we serve across New England,” said Bossie.
For shoppers who do not bring their own shopping bags beginning Aug. 1, a 10-cent charge per paper bag will be added to their bill. This fee is in an effort to promote the use of reusable bags instead of paper, which also causes harm to the environment.
“We want customers to steer away from paper too,” said Hartman, noting all of the trees that are involved in the paper process, as well as the fuel to transport them. “Paper bags are also not doing the environment any favors.”
To gauge the community’s feeling about eliminating plastic bags, a plethora of comments came flooding in from a post on the We Love Westfield Community Forum Facebook page. At press time, more than 280 responses were posted – mostly in favor of the initiative.
For Colleen Powers Andrews, she noted she hasn’t used plastic bags for decades.
“I’m thrilled with this decision,” she said.
Alena Kremer echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve been using reusable bags for a couple of years,” said Kremer. “I think this is the wave of the future and I commend Big Y for proceeding with this initiative. Connecticut is in the process of passing a statewide bag tax which turns into a ban. Massachusetts should follow suit. Bring your bags … once you develop the habit it actually makes things a lot easier.”
Beth Campurciani concurred.
“We all know how bad plastic is for the planet,” said Campurciani. “A co-worker of mine challenged us to not buy anything that used plastic, including food. This is almost impossible. Try buying a toothbrush or bottle of shampoo. Changing to paper is one small step in the right direction.”
Chelsea Bineault also said she was happy to see this change.
“Love this idea,” said Bineault. “Charging for bags will help encourage people to use reusable. Sad there are people so against the future of our earth and push against every change.”
While most suggestions were in favor of eliminating the plastic bags, there were some area residents who wanted to share an alternative view.
“Everyone is quick to jump on the ‘plastic is bad’ bandwagon when the truth is that all bags are terrible for the environment in some way,” said Heather Huizenga.
Misty Anne Reyor added shortly after, “Most things we do/use are terrible for the environment.”
Dorene White also noted a reminder to all who use reusable bags to wash or clean them “to curb the spread of germs.”
In Big Y’s statement, they noted that customers can keep their reusable bags in shape by washing them regularly with soap and water or disinfectant wipes.
Also on the community forum, Bonnie McLean said she reuses plastic bags for a variety of reasons.
“Years ago people went into a grocery store and you had a cashier, bagger, and bags to put groceries into,” said McLean. “Now when you enter a grocery store, they have a display of scanners for customers to use, then bagging your own groceries, with your own bags with self check out. All I see are lost jobs! I have reused plastic bags for so many uses, but then you have the lazy people who throw the plastic bags in the streets, ending up in the rivers.”
As Big Y noted in a statement, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year. When not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm wildlife and local communities.
One of the later comments came from Jennilynne Hall who simply said, “Get over it. Stop destroying our planet and being lazy and just bring your own recyclable bags.”
For Hartman’s part, he is hopeful that the communities that the Big Y serves will be supportive of this new initiative.
“Habits can change very quickly,” said Hartman, adding, “We are excited to be a leader in the forefront of this issue.”
Christina Lafreniere said she is among the many customers who “love” the idea of eliminating the plastic bags.
“I love it, and have been waiting for it for a while,” said Lafreniere. “I work in South Hadley, and they started this last year. I love collecting reusable bags and am now completely in the habit of keeping them in my car. Change is hard for people, but it does get easier (and better)!”