New England grocer Big Y Foods Inc. plans to eliminate single-use plastic bags at checkout chainwide next year.
Springfield, Mass.-based Big Y said yesterday it decided to completely phase out the plastic bags after evaluating the experience of six of its stores that were complying with community bans in place since 2014.
Customers in those communities — Adams, Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton and South Hadley, Mass. — expressed support for the ban as well as environmentally responsible business practices and the use of reusable bags instead of plastic and paper bags, according to the retailer.
Plans call for Big Y to cease using the plastic bags by 2020 at its 83 stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut, which include 71 Big Y supermarkets; 10 Big Y Express convenience and fuel locations; one Fresh Acres Market specialty supermarket; and one Table & Vine wine, beer, spirits and specialty foods store.
“Single-use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long-term solution for our stores,” Richard Bossie, vice president of store operations at Big Y, said in a 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.”
Big Y said it aims to fully shift to reusable bags in 2020. To that end, the retailer will offer special discounts and promotions on its reusable bags during 2019. Customers can extend the use of reusable bags by washing them regularly with soap and water or wiping them with a disinfectant wipe, the company noted.
Currently, Big Y collects single-use plastic bags from customers at all stores and sends them to recycling plants for use in decking. The chain said it uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags at their checkouts annually.
More than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, Big Y reported, citing data from the Environment Protection Agency. If not properly discarded, that plastic can end up in waterways and forests and endanger fish, marine animals, birds and other wildlife, the company said.
Big Y added that its other sustainability efforts include paper and cardboard recycling programs and composting; regular donations of meat, produce, bakery and other items to area food banks; and the use of solar arrays, LED lighting and electric car charging stations to promote energy conservation.