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Mass Cuts Disposable Bag Use at Supermarkets

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Food Associationsay that a joint initiative with the grocery and supermarket industry to reduce the number of disposable paper and plastic shopping bags distributed in Massachusetts has scored excellent results during the first two years – a reduction of 25 percent since 2007.

As part of the voluntary initiative, 12 supermarket chains, comprised of 384 stores representing over two-thirds of the industry in Massachusetts, have been participating in the effort by tracking annual paper and plastic bag use. Participating chains reported the reduction of 25 percent in disposable bag distribution in Massachusetts. The goal of the initiative is a reduction of at least 33 percent by 2013.

Participating grocery chains include: Big Y Supermarkets, Crosby’s, DeMoulas Market Basket, Donelan’s, Foodmaster, Hannaford Bros., Price Chopper, PriceRite, Roche Bros., Shaw’s Supermarkets, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., and Trucchi’s.

“By achieving a 25 percent reduction in the use of disposable paper and plastic bags by using an incentive-based, voluntary approach, we have shown that a balance between environmental stewardship and consumer choice can achieve significant results,” MFA President Christopher Flynn said.

Each supermarket chain has implemented steps to encourage using less disposable bags, including training staff to reduce wasteful distribution of bags, offering reusable bags for sale, providing cash incentives for reusable bag use, accepting used plastic bags for recycling and posting instructional signs reminding patrons not to forget to bring their bags.

California’s state Assembly approved Assembly Bill 1998 in June that would make California the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic and paper bags from being handed out at grocery stores, starting in 2012. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Last month, Portland Mayor Sam Adams proposed a ban on plastic bags at grocery stores and retail pharmacies in the city, hoping that the law will pass this time around

California, Rhode Island, New York and Delaware and cities like Chicago and Tucson have recently passed laws requiring stores to take back plastic bags and film for recycling.

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