This spring on Earth Day, Wild Oats began collecting ten cents from customers for paper grocery bags. Preliminary calculations suggest that in the first two months, you’ve helped the co-op cut its paper bag use in half. Good work everybody!
In case you’re wondering, a solid majority of customers (about six of every seven) now either brings a reusable bag, snags a box from the back of the store, or juggles their purchases the short walk to the café or the parking lot.
Still, we all forget our bags from time to time or just aren’t in the habit yet of carrying a bag into the store, and those dimes add up. We’ve collected over $500 so far, which we’ll be donating to a community organization designated by you, the co-op’s owners. Stay tuned for more information in the coming days.
The co-op’s move to charge for paper bags comes a few years after Williamstown residents voted to institute a similar fee town-wide, along with a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags and polystyrene packaging. (The state Attorney General later disallowed the paper bag charge for technical reasons, while the ban on plastics survived.)
Concerns about the environmental impact of plastics have resulted in similar ordinances in a growing number of communities across Massachusetts and neighboring states. This spring both New York and Vermont took the next step and enacted statewide bans. In addition to banning the plastic bags and polystyrene containers, Vermont now limits restaurants from dispensing plastic straws—another step Wild Oats took voluntarily this past year.
In fact, I’m pleased to say that Vermont’s law is considered the most comprehensive in the country. As a member of the state legislature, I not only had the chance to cast a vote for the environment, but was able to offer a first-hand perspective of the operational considerations and the impact on customers. I also had a front-row seat to the efforts of environmental advocates and other activists, including students, who worked hard—just as they did here in Williamtown—to effect positive change.
Not surprisingly, the plastics industry lobbied against the measure. But the retail trade association supported it, preferring a uniform set of standards across the state rather than individual laws enacted town by town. In the end, the bill had strong support in both houses and the governor signed it. Let’s aim for the same in Massachusetts!