Big Y dropping single-use plastic bags sooner than planned

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PITTSFIELD Big Y Foods has set Aug. 1 as the date that it plans to eliminate single-use plastic bags at checkouts throughout its entire chain, including at the company's supermarkets in North Adams and Pittsfield.

The Springfield-based grocer also operates Berkshire supermarkets in Great Barrington and Lee, and gas/convenience stores in Lee and Pittsfield. But town ordinances already in effect prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags in Great Barrington and Lee. Big Y began phasing out the use of single-use plastic bags at its Pittsfield gas/convenience store in April.

In January, Big Y announced that it planned to eliminate the bags at checkouts at all of its more than 80 locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut by next year. In a statement, Big Y said it decided to move the deadline to next month to "streamline operations" and support the chain's sustainability efforts. This year, a company executive told The Eagle that Big Y decided to implement this new policy because of the environmental factors associated with using plastic, and to have all its outlets be subject to the same regulations. Ordinances banning single-use plastic bags also are in effect in Amherst, Northampton and South Hadley.

Big Y is trying to be smarter about the resources and energy it uses, Richard Bossie, the company's vice president of operations and customer experience, said in the statement.

"By working with our shoppers, we can further reduce consumption to make a difference in and around the tight-knit communities that we already serve in New England," Bossie said.

More than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year. The ones that are not disposed of properly can end up in forests and waterways, where they can harm wildlife, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Big Y alone annually distributes 100 million single-use plastic bags, according to the company.

With the use of plastic bags eliminated, Big Y plans to stock reusable shopping bags at the checkout counters at all of its locations. The bags will be designed with everything from university logos to hometown sports icons to nautical themes, "something for everyone," according to the company.

Shoppers who don't bring their own bags to the market will have a 10-cent charge added to their bill to pay for paper bags, Big Y said. The fee is being assessed to promote use of reusable bags, because paper bags also can cause harm to the environment.

Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.

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