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Big Y Foods Inc.

Big Y moves up plastic bag phaseout

Starting next month, shoppers must bring their own bags or pay paper bag fee

Big Y Foods has expedited plans to eliminate single-use plastic bags at checkout in all of its stores.

The Springfield, Mass.-based grocer said yesterday that its 81 supermarkets and specialty stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut will no longer provide the plastic bags as of Aug. 1. The company had announced in January that it would phase out the bags next year.

Big Y said it moved up its timeline given recent changes to laws in various towns across New England as well as to streamline operations and “do its part” to support sustainability. The supermarket chain noted that it has been complying with single-use plastic bag bans in several Massachusetts communities since 2014.

“At Big Y, beyond providing great quality, great prices and great customer service, we also try to be smart about the resources and energy we use,” Richard Bossie, senior vice president of operations and customer experience at Big Y, said in a statement. “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.”

To help customers transition from single-use plastic bags, Big Y will offer discounts on reusable bags throughout August. Shoppers will be able to choose from a variety of fun, new designs and sizes, ranging from local university logos to hometown sports icons and nautical themed bags, the retailer said. The reusable bags are sold by the checkout area.

Big Y noted that customers can maintain their reusable bags by washing them regularly with soap and water or disinfectant wipes. The grocer has posted an online video in which its registered dietitians share tips for cleaning reusable bags.   

For customers who don’t bring their own shopping bags, a 10-cent charge per paper bag will be added to their bill starting Aug. 1. Big Y said the fee will help promote the use of reusable bags instead of paper, which also add to the level of waste and cause harm to the environment.

Big Y reported that it uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags at its store checkouts annually. The company decided to remove single-use plastic bags after evaluating the experience of six stores — in Adams, Amherst, Great Barrington, Lee, Northampton and South Hadley, Mass. — that were complying with local bans in place since 2014. Customers in those communities expressed support for the bans and the use of reusable bags instead of plastic and paper bags, according to the retailer.

More than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year, Big Y said, citing data from the Environment Protection Agency. If not properly discarded, the bags can end up in waterways and forests and endanger fish, marine animals, birds and other wildlife.

Overall, Big Y Foods operates 70 Big Y supermarkets; nine Big Y Express convenience and fuel locations; one Fresh Acres Market specialty supermarket; and one Table & Vine wine, beer, spirits and specialty foods store.

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