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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

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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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7 Comments   Add Comment

  1. DB says:

    When plastic bags are outlawed, only outlaws will have plastic bags.

  2. Eve Schatz says:

    I separate trash, compost, recycle, reconfigure, reuse, and give stuff away all to support the goal to have less plastic and garbage in the environment. Have to say that since the ban, I purchase more plastic garbage bags now than in the past (didn’t purchase them in the past). I don’t think I am unusual in that I reused those thin plastic grocery bags as kitchen, bathroom and bedroom waste basket liners. Isn’t it ironic? Did other people actually throw them out and then purchase liner bags? How wasteful!
    If a bag is reused one time, is that sufficient? If reusing a bag one time prevents someone from purchasing new plastic, is that sufficient? Seems like 6 of one half dozen of another in my circumstances. What are other people’s habits?

    1. Casey says:

      We always used the market bags to line our trash cans at home. The waste baskets were lined and dumped and reused until they got holes. Now we are forced to purchase other THICKER plastic bags at an added cost to us. I worry about the elderly who are forced to purchase bags to pick up their doggies poo. They used to use the grocery bags. Yes that was recycling
      The new bag at Big Y might be plastic but I have purchased one and so far used it 8 trips. Where is the problem here. I did not throw it away. It is the greatest for fruits and veggies. They don’t get squished!

  3. Stephanie Blumetnhal says:

    Kudos to GB select board for stopping the use of these Big Y “recycled plastic” bags; I was surprised and shocked when I saw them at the checkout counter!!
    In response to the other comments, there are plastic bags used for produce that can be used for “doggie poo.”
    We buy biobags to line our waste baskets, they’re biodegradable. It’s all about a balance; there is so much plastic waste. Unless it’s used for kitchen waste, why not reuse your liners again.
    Over the lifetime of one reusable bag you eliminate the need for 1000 plastic bags…think about that!

    1. Richard Needelman says:

      The “life” of one paper bag is about 3 trips before the handle breaks. Less if it gets wet. It takes 1 gallon of water to make one paper bag, it takes one gallon of water to make 500 plastic bags. In a landfill, NEITHER paper or plastic will degrade. Paper bags are heaver, so the truck that delivers them to the store uses more fuel. Almost 40% of Great Barrington residents have pets. That poop or waste now has to be put in plastic bags that now have to be paid for by the customer, not the store, and STILL end up in the landfill. >> Think about that!<<

  4. Mark Daniels says:

    The bags in question at Big Y meets both the letter and the spirit of The Great Barrington bag ban legislation
    That legislation requires the bag to be more than 2.55 mil thick. These bags are OVER 3 mil thick
    That legislation requires the bag to be Reusable (multiple uses) but does not specify what that means. – The bags at Big Y have been tested by independent labs and are certified to carry 22 lbs, 175 feet, 125 times. This is the most stringent definition of reusable in the country. These bags are also recyclable. Documentation showing all this is being sent to the Newsapaper, and City Council members.

  5. Trudy Miller says:

    I, too, was surprised to see the new plastic bags at Big Y, but if they meet (and exceed) the specifications of the legislation then I guess technically Big Y has met its responsibility. I will not purchase one, however, because to me plastic is plastic. It is interesting to me that Big Y & others have been able to completely eliminate a former expense line – plastic & paper bags – and replace it with an income line – reusable bags that we purchase.

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