Shaw's Beats Barrington to Bag Ban
A Shaw's representative announces that the Barrington store will phase out the use of plastic grocery bags over 90-120 days at a special Town Council meeting Wednesday night to further debate a proposal to ban all plastic bags.
Shaw’s Supermarket plans to ban plastic grocery bags at its Barrington store no matter how the Town Council votes on an ordinance that would eliminate the bags at all retailers in town.
The announcement of the ban came at the special public meeting of the Town Council on Wednesday evening, Aug. 22, to further debate the proposal from the Conservation Commission.
Steve Sylven, external communications manager for Supervalue, which owns Shaw’s, said the Barrington store would phase in the ban “over the next 90 to 120 days.”
“We’ll do it as a trial,” Sylven said, to determine if the ban would put the supermarket at a competitive disadvantage with stores that still offer plastic bags for groceries.
The Shaw’s ban brought widespread applause from supporters of the Barrington proposal, including representatives of several environmental groups. It seems to add significant support for the town-wide ban because Shaw’s is the largest user of the plastic bags by far in Barrington.
“Why wouldn’t the Town Council do it now?” said Cynthia Fuller, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, after the meeting.
Joseph Roberts, the Conservation Commission member who proposed the ban last spring before making a formal presentation to the Town Council for a ban a few weeks ago, opened the meeting with a brief synopsis of his proposal.
“It’s time to move ahead,” Roberts said, “and others will follow.”
He also said the ban can be done by large establishments like a Shaws Supermarket, which announced that it plans to give it a try.
Several speakers urged the councilors to consider some type of enhanced recycling effort instead of a ban as a better alternative. It’s an effort that seems to have the support of Councilor Jeff Brenner, who suggested the possibility of placing recyclable barrels at schools and other public places all over town.
Councilor Bill DeWitt also favors other alternatives because he is concerned about the impact of a plastic ban bag on Barrington. He suggested that shoppers in Barrington “might vote with their feet” and travel to stores in nearby Seekonk where they will still have a choice of paper or plastic bags.
Councilor Kate Weymouth said that for DeWitt to suggest "people will flee Barrington and battle traffic" on Route 6 just to use plastic bags makes no sense.
David Asselin, a representative of the Progressive Bag Alliance in Washington, D.C., which represents plastic bag manufacturers, said Barrington should consider a recycling initiative because the bags “are no way toxic” and “100 percent recyclable.” They can be made into decking, mulch and other products.
“And when given a choice,” said Asselin, who traveled from Washington, D.C. to Barrington for the meeting, “people will use plastic.”
Addressing a concern about the bags filling up landfills, Asselin said: “The best way to keep bags out of the waste stream is to recycle them.” And the best way to recycle the bags is with “in-store recycling,” he said.
Jeff Weiser, a town official in Westport, Conn., which is the only New England town to ban plastic bags, also traveled to Barrington Wednesday evening. He said there does not appear to have been a negative impact on businesses, which have been among the biggest supporters of the ban before and after its passage.
Vickie Olsen, the owner of Miz Fibz Deli & Café on Kent Street, said the plastic bag ban doesn’t go far enough.
“The real enemy is not this bag,” she said, wielding a grocery bag, “the real enemy is all plastic.”
She pulled a large sheet of plastic wrap from a paper bag to make her point.
George Tamer of Center ACE Hardware, said: “I already support the ban. But give us time to use up what we have.”
He said a 90-day phase-out period should be sufficient.
Margaret Kane of Barrington, a candidate for Town Council, asked if the councilors had an idea of the size of this problem. She said she picked up 1,000 beer cans in one month and 3 plastic bags. That seems to be a larger menace to the environment.
“An economic impact is needed,” Kane said. “And there is a lot more to look at” than just grocery bags."
Jonathan Fain of Barrington, who works for a plastic-making company, said the Town Council should be looking at a "ban of paper bags, not plastic bags." He said recycled plastic can be used for other products to produce far less of an impact on the environment.
“The chemical composition of plastic does not change, only its form,” Fain said.
Town Council President June Speakman said the next step in this process is the introduction of the ordinance to ban plastic grocery bags. That will come at the Sept. 10 meeting.
A public hearing on the ordinance will then be held at the Oct. 1 Town Council meeting. A decision on the ban is expected to be made at that meeting, she said.