Come the New Year, single-use, plastic checkout bags will be a thing of the past for the majority of customers shopping at retail and grocery stores in town. After a public hearing in April, the Board of Health passed the new regulation which is slated to go into effect Jan. 1.
The regulation states, “The single-use plastic checkout bags shall not be distributed, used or sold for checkout or other purposes at any retail or grocery store within the town of Hopkinton.”
Customers will be encouraged to use reusable or biodegradable bags when shopping in town. Stores are also encouraged to sell the reusable bags to customers at affordable prices if possible.
The regulation provides “for the protection of the town’s aquatic and terrestrial environments, advances solid waste reduction, and reduces nuisance litter by implementing a strict and enforceable system that reduces the distribution of single-use plastic check-out bags within the town of Hopkinton.”
According to the Mass Green Network, Hopkinton is now one of 81 communities in Massachusetts to halt plastic bag use at retail stores.
“We’re just looking to reinforce and continue the tradition of being a green community,” explained Hopkinton Health Director Shaun McAuliffe.
In July, state lawmakers voted down a statewide ban of their use, leaving the decision up to individual communities.
“Stores have an opportunity to apply for a waiver if they feel it will represent an undue hardship,” added McAuliffe.
Thin-plastic bags used for dry cleaning, to contain newspapers, baked goods, meats, seafood, and produce, typically made without handles, are still permitted.
Stores like Price Chopper will be preparing customers for the changeover.
“We’ll be putting out signage to make customers aware,” said Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer services for Price Chopper in the corporate office.
Price Chopper offers customers a three-cent credit for each shopping bag brought back to repack their orders. According to Golub, only eight percent of Hopkinton Price Chopper customers bring back reusable bags on a regular basis.
“That means 92 percent will need to convert their behavior,” she said.
Michael Macione, Hopkinton Drug marketing manager, said there’s no need to prepare their customers for the ban.
“We’ve never used plastic bags. The owners have always used paper,” he said of the store’s conscious decision to help the environment.
McAuliffe added other retail stores in town have also been practicing the no-plastic-bag measure for some time.
Golub said Price Chopper fully supports measures to help the environment but paper bags are expensive for stores to purchase, particularly for a store the size of Price Chopper. So, what will the grocery store offer its customers who arrive without reusable bags?
“That’s’ the conversation that’s going on today,” she said. “We’re figuring that out.”
She added that their WIC and SNAP customers need to be considered with the new ban and continued discussions with municipalities can help with that.
“All of these thoughts need to be taken into consideration,” Golub said.