PHOTOS | Town bans plastic retail shopping bags

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Plastic is on the way out.

On March 1, Great Barrington will be the first Western Massachusetts community to implement a ban on retail plastic bags. Three other Massachusetts communities, Brookline, Nantucket and Manchester-By-The-Sea, have similar bylaws.

Flanked by representatives from the town's major supermarkets, officials at Town Hall on Tuesday formally announced the upcoming implementation of the bylaw, which was approved at Town Meeting last May.

The ban prohibits the use of "thin film, single-use plastic checkout bags" for retail purposes. Larger plastic bags, such as dry cleaning, garbage, bulk produce and other types of plastic bags, are exempt from this provision.

The Board of Selectmen twice delayed implementation of the ban to allow more time for outreach and education on the new bylaw, and for businesses to wind down their current stock of plastic bags.

The town's Board of Health will be in charge of administering non-criminal complaint tickets for businesses that continue to use plastic bags after March 1.

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 multiple violations.

Representatives from Big Y, Price Chopper, the Berkshire Co-op Market and Guido's all were in attendance on Tuesday. "I appreciate the cooperation we're getting from the business community," said Selectman Chairman Sean Stanton. "We've been talking about this for a while."

Stanton explained that the business community was, overall, supportive of the move.

"There was some pushback in the beginning," he said, "but really, not much."

"Truthfully? The biggest question we got was how we were going to implement this," said Selectman Andrew Blechman. The principal aim of the town is to try to induce residents to use re-usable canvas bags, rather than paper bags, Stanton said.

Dawn Masiero, whose family owns the Guido's Fresh Marketplace stores here and in Pittsfield, said the Great Barrington store discontinued the use of plastic bags in July.

"We're proud to do business in Great Barrington," she said.

"The biggest complaint we get is from senior citizens who like to have bags with handles," said John Tracy, owner of Gorham and Norton's Grocery store, the oldest grocer in town. "But we've always used paper, except for really big orders." "It may seem inconvenient at first, but we all knew this was the right thing to do," said Arthur Ames, general manager of the Berkshire Co-Op market.

He said other communities soon will join in the ban.

"This is big news now," he said. "But in a few years, it won't be."