SPRINGFIELD, MA — Big Y Foods announced Thursday that it will eliminate single-use plastic bags at the checkouts from its more than 80 supermarket locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts on Aug. 1 of this year, quicker than its original timetable.
That happens to be the same date that Connecticut shoppers who prefer plastic bags will be spending an extra dime for that right, according to a new Connecticut law.
Big Y has been complying with single-use plastic bag bans in several Massachusetts communities since 2014.
Coming off of recent changes to laws in various towns across the New England region, including many in Connecticut, Big Y has moved up its 2020 timeline to eliminate single-use plastic at checkouts in all of its locations.
“At Big Y, beyond providing great quality, great prices and great customer service, we also try to be smart about the resources and energy we use,” said Richard D. Bossie, Big Y Senior Vice President of Operations and Customer Experience. “By working with our shoppers, we can further reduce consumption to make a difference in and around the tight-knit communities that we serve across New England.”
For those shoppers who do not bring their own shopping bags to Big Y, beginning on Aug. 1, a 10-cent charge per paper bag will be added to their bill.
Big Y is not the first big chain to make this move. National chains Costco and Aldi, which both have stores in Connecticut, currently do not provide free single-use plastic bags. They also charge for plastic bags.
Big Y is reacting, in part to the fact that a multitude of towns in Connecticut — and the state itself — have either passed legislation or are in the process of on plastic bag bans.
The statewide legislation signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont allows shoppers to continue to use plastic bags, if they like, for two more years until a total ban is called for, starting on Aug. 1, 2021.
But starting this Aug. 1, or in a few short weeks, each plastic bag in Connecticut will come with a 10-cent tax under the statewide legislation.
The legislation also allows any towns that have passed ordinances on their own on plastic bag bans to supersede state law, as long as the town ordinances are equally or more restrictive than the state law passed.
Across the state, Hamden, Mansfield, Middletown, New Canaan, New Britain, Norwalk, Stamford, Weston, Greenwich, Westport, and Branford, among others, have passed bans on single-use plastic bags.
Those who follow the issue in the state say about 30 towns are in the process of either finalizing or getting close to finalizing their own bans on plastic bags — and/or charging fees for their use.
Many towns who have passed plastic bag bans on their own will not have their bans go into effect for awhile — many have set Jan. 1, 2020 — to give grocers time to use up inventory.
Those towns, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CLTCV) Deputy Director Amanda Schoen said Thursday, will operate under the state law guidelines — meaning a dime per plastic bag come Aug. 1 of this year — until the date of the local town ordinance takes effect.
An example of how a town ordinance will supersede state legislation is in Branford where the plastic bag ban will take effect in five months.
The Branford ordinance will impose a warning on a store that violates the ban on a first offense, a second offense will result in a $150 fine, a third will see a $150 fine and eight hours of community service, and every subsequent violation another $150 fine. Enforcement will fall under the jurisdiction of the Branford Police.
The Branford law allows retailers to charge for distribution of single-use paper bags, something meant to strongly encourage residents to bring their own reusable bags for shopping. Retailers may charge up to 10 cents per bag, under the Branford law. That amount can increase another 5 cents every 5 years, up to a maximum of 25 cents.
Branford residents who are on food stamps or other state aid are exempt from the charge.
Bans like the one in Norwalk went into effect earlier this week.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used in the United States each year. When not disposed of properly, this plastic can end up in waterways and forests where it can harm wildlife and our local communities.