To help New York customers eschew single-use plastic shopping bags, Stop & Shop this month will begin providing free reusable bags ahead of a state ban.
Single-use plastic bags are scheduled to be phased out at supermarkets and other retail stores across New York starting March 1. Beginning Feb. 22, Stop & Shop will have information tables at stores to answer questions about the state ban and hand out free reusable bags, plus other giveaway items, to customers who bring in one or more carryout plastic bags for recycling.
Under the New York ban, shoppers will be required to pay for paper bags or reuse their own bags on grocery store visits. Individual counties will have the option of charging 5 cents for paper bags.
In New York municipalities instituting a 5-cent paper bag reduction fee, Stop & Shop said it will collect and remit the funds to the government in line with state law. At stores in localities not assessing the 5-cent paper bag fee, the supermarket chain said it will charge 5 cents per bag to sway shoppers to shift to reusable bags.
“Sustainability is a priority at Stop & Shop, and we’re committed to encouraging the use of reusables and to helping our customers make the transition,” Stop & Shop President Gordon Reid said in a statement. “By charging 5 cents for paper, we’re encouraging our customers to make the switch to reusable bags, while also supporting local nonprofits that are doing important work to protect and preserve the environment in New York state.”
The free reusable shopping bags are limited to one per customer per visit, while supplies last, Stop & Shop said. Plans call for the Quincy, Mass.-based chain, which has more than 200 stores in New York, to donate the funds collected from the 5-cent paper bag fee to local environmental conservation groups, including Coastal Research & Education Society of Long Island, Riverkeeper and Westchester Land Trust.
In Connecticut, Stop & Shop eliminated single-use plastic bags at its more than 90 stores last August, offering customers a free reusable bag if they brought in one or more single-use plastic bags for recycling. The grocer also provided free paper bags, where local laws permit. But as of Sept. 3, the retailer began charging a 10-cent fee on paper bags. The state enacted a 10-cent fee on single-use plastic bags starting on Aug. 1, 2019, and a full ban will go into effect after June 30, 2021.
Eight states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont — currently ban single-use plastic bags. In 2019, state lawmakers introduced at least 95 bills related to plastic bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of the legislation aims to ban or levy a fee on plastic bags, NCSL said, while other bills would pre-empt local government action or improve bag recycling programs.
On its community website, Stop & Shop said it has removed more than a billion plastic shopping bags from the waste stream since 2011 through such initiatives as its “Better Bagging” campaign, which distributes reusable tote bags to customers. The retailer reported that last year it recycled about 350 million pounds of material, including plastics and cardboard, diverting 73% of the company’s waste from landfills. Overall, Stop & Shop operates more than 400 stores in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.