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Retailers

Plastic Bag Bans Gain Steam in 2019

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes statewide ban; Big Y to phase out use by 2020
Photograph: Shutterstock

With consumers’ rising demand for sustainability efforts, retailers and legislators are increasingly implementing initiatives to tackle the widespread waste of single-use plastics.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15 introduced his 2019 executive budget plan with a proposal to ban single-use plastic bags across retail stores statewide in an effort to combat litter, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment, according to a statement.

The proposal states that the Department of Environmental Conservation will work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure that the phaseout of single-use plastic bags does not disproportionately impact low- and moderate-income and environmental justice communities through the distribution of reusable bags and exemptions, where appropriate.

In addition to addressing the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, Cuomo’s proposal offers a financial incentive to reduce waste by expanding New York’s bottle bill to make most nonalcohol beverage containers eligible for 5-cent redemption.

"While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation's strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations," Cuomo said in a statement. "These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water and create a cleaner and greener New York for all."

Cuomo’s proposal arrives on the heels of Big Y Foods Inc.’s recently announced plan to eliminate single-use plastic bags at each of its 70 locations and specialty stores as well as its Big Y Express gas and convenience locations.

Instead, the Springfield, Mass.-based company suggests its customers switch to reusable bags, with the hopes of a complete phaseout by 2020. To ease shoppers’ transition to reusable bags, Big Y will be offering special discounted pricing and promotions on its reusable bags throughout 2019.

“Single-use plastic bags can no longer be viewed as a long-term solution for our stores,” Richard Bossie, Big Y VP of store operations, said in a statement. “Our customers and the communities we serve have made it quite clear that they prefer more environmentally friendly alternatives. We look forward to implementing this new program in all of our retail locations.”

After complying with single-use plastic bag bans in six of its local Massachusetts communities since 2014, the retailer said it realized its customers’ positive reaction to the transition as well as recognized its responsibility to cut down on unnecessary plastic waste.

The company currently uses 100 million plastic bags and 3.5 million paper bags at checkouts each year, according to a statement. The retailer also said it collects single-use plastic bags from customers at each store and sends them to recycling plants for use in decking.

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