GREAT BARRINGTON -- The ban on plastic bags has been postponed.
A new bylaw prohibiting stores from using plastic bags, which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, won't be implemented until March 1.
The delay would allow the grocery stores more time to stop using plastic bags to package items at the checkout counter, according to Board of Health Director Mark Pruhenski.
"The stores weren't prepared yet," he said. "The reason we requested the delay is to get a better end result."
During May's town meeting, voters approved an article that bans the production and use of single-use plastic bags in town because of potential harm to the environment done by these bags that biodegrade slowly.
Violators would be assessed fines ranging from $50 to $200 for the distribution of plastic bags at checkout stations. Exceptions will be made for thin-film plastic bags used to contain dry cleaning, newspapers, produce meat, bulk foods, wet items and other similar merchandise.
The article states the bylaw could take effect as soon as July 1, 2013. However, in August, the Board of Selectmen postponed implementation to Jan. 1, 2014.
The new March 1 deadline has the support of large grocery stores and would allow more time to raise awareness, Pruhenski said.
Monument Mountain Regional High School's art department is expected to submit draft logos to raise awareness. Town staff will announce the logos by Jan. 8 .
In February, banners and signs featuring the logo will be spread throughout town to generate awareness. Grocery store customers can also expect to see signs in the parking lot reminding them not to forget their reusable bags in their car.
On Feb. 12, outreach will begin at Big Y and Price Chopper, along with Guido's Fresh Marketplace and the Berkshire Co-Op.
Guido's Fresh Marketplace on Main Street stopped using plastic bags in July. Berkshire Co-Op does not use plastic bags, according to an employee. Both stores charge up to a dime for each paper bag, although the Co-Op donates all money raised from paper bags to charity.
"As of this point, we are right on schedule," Pruhenski said. "I don't anticipate any more delays."
Beginning on March 1, stores distributing plastic bags will be fined.
According to the bylaw, retail establishments in Great Barrington could be fined $50 for a first violation of the ordinance, and an additional $50 each day until the violation is corrected. The penalty will increase to $100 for a second violation of the bylaw until is corrected, and to $200 for a third violation.