PLAINVILLE - Big Y is looking to phase out its single-use plastic bags in favor of reusable bags by the end of 2020, with corporate officials citing environmental and logistical concerns.
The supermarket chain’s 275 New Britain Ave. location had been open since the early 1990s, said Big Y spokeswoman Claire D’Amour-Daley.
“The goal is to implement the change within a year and a half,” said D’Amour-Daley. “We’ve got a little bit of work on our end to do, including redesigning the checkout stations to work with the reusable bags. We are working fanatically with our supplier to order many, many more cloth bags.”
As part of the switch, D’Amour-Daley said, different locations may be offering incentives to encourage customers to buy the new bags.
“We might have one week where we offer a ‘buy one, get one free’ or we might throw in a bag with a purchase of a certain dollar amount or higher,” said D’Amour-Daley. “We will also be doing some work to educate our customers. We want to encourage them to remember to bring the cloth bags along with them when they shop and to clean them regularly. That’s a critical component. We will be putting up some advertising in our stores and we have also been posting on our social media.”
D’Amour-Daley said in a statement that single-use plastic bags create an inordinate amount of waste.
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, they can end up in waterways and forests where they can harm fish and other marine animals, birds and other wildlife.
“Big Y recognizes its responsibility to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste that contributes to litter, harms the environment and can endanger wildlife,” said D’Amour-Daley. “Currently, Big Y uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags at their checkouts each year. The company also recognizes that paper is not the answer to this waste problem as the paper production process is harmful to the environment, causing increased greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. A sustainable option for customers is the use of reusable bags that should be washed regularly with soap and water or wiped clean with a disinfectant wipe. Big Y’s goal is to shift completely to reusable bags in 2020.”
“Single-use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long term solution for our stores,” said Richard D. Bossie, Big Y’s vice president of store operations. “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.”
D’Amour-Daley added that Big Y is also exploring getting rid of plastic straws and lids.
“We’re looking at other concerns, but we need to start somewhere or we can’t go forward,” she said. “We’ve heard from customers saying that they are getting used to the change and our cashiers who say that it isn’t a problem for them.”
D’Amour-Daley said the new policy will also help Big Y to streamline its operations. Six stores in Massachusetts, she said, each deal with a different town ordinance regarding plastic bags. She said it has been challenging for the company to “run six different programs.”
“The company has been complying with single-use plastic bag bans in six of its local communities in Massachusetts (Adams, Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton, South Hadley) since 2014,” she said. “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.”
Currently, Big Y collects single-use plastic bags from customers at each store and sends them to recycling plants.
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.
In addition, they have championed other energy-saving initiatives, such as the use of solar arrays, LED lighting and even electric car charging stations.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.