Grocers sacking plastic bags as states move to tax them

  • As cities and states enact measures to curb pollution from plastic, some retailers are opting to get rid of the disposable bags altogether.
  • With a 10-cent tax on disposable plastic bags taking effect in Connecticut, Big Y Food and Stop & Shop are changing how they operate in the state.

As cities and states move to curb pollution from plastic, some grocers are vying to stay ahead of the curve by getting rid of disposable bags altogether. Indeed, two major grocery chains said they are ditching plastic checkout bags now that a 10-cent tax on disposable plastic bags is taking effect in Connecticut.

Big Y Foods this week said it was ridding its more than 80 supermarkets in Massachusetts and Connecticut of single-use plastic bags as of Thursday. The stores will offer discounted reusable bags illustrated with playful local themes through the end of the month to ease the transition, the company announced.

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“Coming off of recent changes to laws in various towns across the New England region, Big Y has moved up its 2020 timeline to eliminate single-use plastic at checkouts in all of its locations in order to streamline operations and to do its part to support sustainability,” said the company, already complying with bag bans in several Massachusetts communities since 2014.

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Stop & Shop is also getting rid of plastic bags, but only at its 91 stores in Connecticut, where it’s offering free reusable bags to customers who bring in plastic bags for recycling, according to the retailer. It also operates another 300-plus stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.

More bans coming

Connecticut’s law comes into play in the same week that Delaware Gov. John Carney signed legislation to ban plastic bags by 2021, and weeks after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a ban on single-use checkout bags scheduled to take effect in January.

The Oregon measure also bans the distribution of single-use plastic straws except upon request, effective immediately. Oregon already had bag rules in 10 municipalities, beginning with Portland in 2011.

Statewide plastic bag restrictions also exist in some form in California, Maine, New York and Vermont, while Hawaii has what amounts to a ban at the county level.

Meantime, national brands are following suit. Walmart, the planet’s largest retailer, in April began offering reusable shopping sacks at the checkout counters of all its U.S. stores. Kroger, the nation’s biggest grocery chain, in May said it would eliminate plastic bags by 2025.