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Hugh Thornton
Despite Great Barrington’s ban on plastic bags for retail use, Big Y is selling a thicker variety of plastic bag that the company says it hopes will be reused. Others are skeptical, however.

Big Y selling plastic bags in Great Barrington despite town ban

By Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016 News 7

Great Barrington — Big Y World Class Market recently began offering customers at checkout the option to buy plastic bags, as well as paper bags to carry groceries.

Given the town’s plastic bag bylaw that bans stores from using them to pack purchases, however, the new 15-cent, thick plastic bags were an unwelcome surprise to at least one Big Y customer who contacted the Edge.

Big Y has begun offering these thicker plastic bags in the hopes that people will reuse them, amid concerns in town that the bags are a sidestep to the town’s plastic bag ban. Photo: Heather Bellow.

Big Y has begun offering these thicker plastic bags in the hopes that people will reuse them, amid concerns in town that the bags are a sidestep to the town’s plastic bag ban. Photo: Heather Bellow.

“I think it is definitely a side step of the [town] bylaws,” she said. “While these bags are a bit heavier than the old plastic bags, they are about the weight of a triple ply garbage bag and do in no way meet the intent of the community law.”

She also expressed concerns that the bags were not made from recycled plastic.

The town’s ban on plastic bags states that it prohibits the use of “thin film, single-use plastic checkout bags” for retail purposes. This ban has been in effect since March 2014.

“I would hate to think Big Y is trying to get around this ban,” Selectboard member Ed Abrahams told the Edge. While he has not seen the new bags, he said, “plastic is plastic.”

But board member Bill Cooke brought one of the bags to Monday’s (July 25) Selectboard meeting, and said it was something that needed attention. Board Chair Sean Stanton agreed, and said he would put it on a near-future agenda “It’s definitely not in the spirit and may not be in the letter” of the bylaw, he said.

The new bags are made of a thicker and sturdier plastic material and are printed with such phrases as “thank you for reusing this bag” and “thank you for storing this bag for easy reuse.”

Great Barrington Selectboard member Bill Cooke brought a Big Y bag to the board's meeting. Photo: Heather Bellow

Great Barrington Selectboard member Bill Cooke brought a Big Y bag to the board’s meeting. Photo: Heather Bellow

Rocky Greko, Big Y’s Manager, stands firm that these bags are designed and will be used as a reusable product, much like canvas grocery bags. “We had these bags tried at a testing facility to see how many times they could be used,” he said. “We are really confident they are great reusable products.”

Greko also said the 15 cent charge per bag might help. “I hope this will stop people from getting the plastic bags without intention of reuse,” he said.

Big Y representatives claim they had brought the issue before Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin. Abrahams said the Selectboard had not approved the bags.

While the Edge has confirmed that the town is aware of the new bags, it has not confirmed Tabakin’s official stance on the issue, as she was unavailable for comment last week, and was out sick on Monday.

Greko said the bags are already “pretty popular.”

“The question is: Will people really reuse them, and often enough to make it worth the plastic?” Abrahams wondered. “Ultimately they will end up in the garbage.”


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