Pittsfield's bag ban to roll out next week

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PITTSFIELD — City shoppers might see a change next week as a new plastic-bag ban takes effect. Depending on where they get their groceries, that is.

Those who shop at Big Y, Guido's Fresh Marketplace or Harry's Supermarket won't see any difference at checkout, store managers told The Eagle Thursday. But the Wednesday rollback on thin-film plastic bags will affect those getting their goods at Market 32 and Stop & Shop.

The City Council approved the ban in March following a push from Rinaldo Del Gallo, a former city resident, and other local environmental advocates. The ban, which also applies to non-grocery retailers, allows for biodegradable alternatives.

The city plans to enforce the measure through its Health Department with a complaint-based system. For any businesses struggling to meet the deadline, the city will consider hardship deferment requests that are submitted by Tuesday.

Bob Nichols, an owner at Harry's Supermarket, said he stopped buying plastic bags months ago in anticipation of the ban's January start date. He ran out of the plastic inventory late last month, he said, and then began offering paper for 10 cents each.

Stores like Carr Hardware will also have to make the switch. The chain's owner, Bart Raser, said the Pittsfield location will roll out free paper bags at the register starting later this week or early next week. Of the change, he said he knows it's important to be good citizens.

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"It has an economic impact, obviously," he said. "But it has an environmental impact, too."

Guido's owner Chris Masiero said the Berkshire grocer gave out some 8,500 plastic bags a year between the two stores before they did away with them — in 2013 in Great Barrington, and the following year in Pittsfield.

"That's what we're saving the environment per year," he said, noting "it was strictly an environmental decision."

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The transition has yet to hit two of the city's major grocers, Market 32 and Stop & Shop. But managers said Thursday the stores are ready to pull the plug on plastic. It's easy enough for employees, they said, but it's more of a burden on shoppers.

"It's kind of a learning curve for the customers," said Mark Lefkowitz, assistant grocery manager at Market 32.

Raanan Hartman, sales and merchandise manager for the local Big Y district, said the Pittsfield location stopped providing plastic bags in August. The decision had nothing to do with the city's ban, he said.

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"As a company we talked about it for a while," Hartman said, noting the whole also company went plastic bag-free in August.

Local legislation had already forced several Big Y stores to stop using the bags, he said, "and you could see it coming from town to town."

"And we knew it was the right thing to do," he said. "We just wanted to be the leaders out there, and support that, and support the communities."

Hartman said the company makes a concerted effort to sell reusable bags over paper ones, as "if you trade plastic for paper, you're not really helping the environment."

"It's a transition ," he said. "It's changing your shopping habits a little bit."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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