Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo
Big Y bag promoting change (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo)

Supermarket chain Big Y, which has 30 stores across Connecticut, will phase out single-use plastic bags in its stores by 2020.

National chains Costco and Aldi, which both have stores in Connecticut, currently do not provide free single-use plastic bags.

“Single use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long term solution for our stores,” said Richard D. Bossie, Big Y vice president of store operations in a statement.

“Our customers and the communities we serve have made it quite clear that they prefer more environmentally friendly alternatives,” said Bossie. “We look forward to implementing this new program in all of our retail locations.

Currently, the store said it complies with town ordinances in six Massachusetts municipalities that ban plastic bags.

The bans in these towns prompted officials with the Massachusetts-based grocer to reconsider providing single-use plastic bags across the 70 stores in the chain.

To ensure a smooth transition, Big Y will offer special discounted pricing and promotions on its reusable bags during 2019. 

The retailer currently collects single-use plastic bags from customers at each store and sends them to recycling plants for use in decking. Other sustainability efforts include donations to the five food banks within Big Y’s marketing area, including meat, produce and bakery items.

The chain’s locations also take part in paper- and cardboard-recycling programs and composting, and have installed such energy-saving equipment as solar arrays, LED lighting and electric car-charging stations.

Big Y’s decision comes at a time when there is a growing number of Connecticut communities, frustrated by the state’s inaction,are taking or considering action on their own to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores to help protect the environment.

Currently only Westport and Greenwich have banned single-use plastic bags, but Stamford will soon follow with a ban taking effect in April.

Meanwhile, various discussions about plastic bag bans have been held in recent weeks at meetings in New Haven, Hamden, Branford, Guilford, and North Branford, among others.

Many of those discussions have been initiated by environmental groups who say they are tired of waiting for state legislators to act.

But environmentalists in the individual towns aren’t the only ones hoping the state might soon get on board.

The Connecticut Food Association, for one, is hoping the state will act.

“With 169 towns and cities in Connecticut, a one-by-one plan doesn’t make sense,” Wayne Pesce, president of the association, said. “This scenario is not broad enough, makes it difficult for retailers to comply, and is confusing for consumers.”

“Over the last year or so we have been working with legislators, recyclers and environmental groups to solve this problem via statewide legislation,” Pesce added. “The purpose of this law would be to significantly reduce the amount of single-use bags distributed at retail and to encourage consumers in Connecticut to use their own reusable bags for shopping.”

North America’s largest grocery chain, Kroger, recently announced that it will be discontinuing single-use plastic bags in its stores by 2025 as part of its ongoing sustainability program, called “Zero Hunger, Zero Waste.” 

According to a company press release, an estimated 100 billion single-use plastic bags are thrown away in the U.S every year and less than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled.