Breaking a 'bag' habit: How customers and stores are adjusting to the plastic bag fee

Published on Sunday, 4 August 2019 16:05
Written by Michelle Jalbert


BRISTOL - On Aug. 1, people across the state started to give up their “bag” habit.

Thanks to a new 10-cent tax on plastic bags, people began to fill grocery carts with paper bags and colorful reusable bags with slogans like “Go green” and pictures of planet Earth.

The tax applies to “single-use checkout bags” from any store, including restaurants. So next time you get take-out, make sure it’s in a paper bag to avoid forking over a dime.

The tax does not apply to paper bags, reusable plastic bags that are thicker than traditional grocery bags, bags that are used for unwrapped food like meat, seafood, or loose produce, newspaper bags or bags for laundry and dry cleaning.

Cities and towns are permitted to enact their own ordinances that are as restrictive or more restrictive as the state law. Bristol doesn’t have an ordinance on plastic bags, but the mayor is for the state law.

“From an environmental standpoint, I do support it,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu. She added that she thought it was great that the ban is state-wide, as opposed to having different laws town by town. Bristol didn’t attempt to implement a ban because they didn’t want to layer it on top of the state law and create “too much government.”

“That’s why we held back locally,” the mayor said.

The tax will last until July 1, 2021, when a complete ban of plastic bags will go into effect. The tax is expected to make the state $27.7 million in 2020.

At some stores, like Stop & Shop, there was not a plastic bag in sight. The grocery store chain eliminated all plastic bags on Aug. 1. They’re providing customers with free paper bags until Sept. 1, when they will start charging 10 cents per paper bag, said a press release. To help people adjust to the change, Stop & Shop is giving a reusable bag to everyone who brings in a single-use bag for recycling throughout the month of August.

Many shoppers didn’t mind the change.

“I’m used to it because I live in South Carolina,” said Bobbi Butzbath, whose cart was piled with reusable bags and paper bags. “It makes sense. You have all your bags here with you.”

“We’ve always used our own bags,” said Steve Mather. “We’re used to it.”

“I have no problem with it,” said Amy Marchetti. “I knew about it, so I’ve been stocking up.”

“Everybody’s like ‘they’re taxing us again,’” she said, but Machetti believes the tax will encourage people to be more eco-friendly.

Liza Siegel was also for the fee because it helps the environment.

“I’ve always bought my own bags so it doesn’t have a big effect on me,” said Siegel. “I think it’s good for it to be in place because it helps people be more aware of the plastic bag issue for the environment.”

Some, like Annette Lorenzetti, were on the fence about it.

“To me personally, for plastic bags I understand the environmental part of it. I wish they could have come up with something else besides the 10-cent tax,” said Lorenzetti. She added that there are already a lot of taxes in the state. “It’s about putting more money in the hands of the government.”

Stop & Shop is doing its best to ease people into the change. Whenever a customer buys a $2.50 reusable bag, the store will donate $1 to a Connecticut nonprofit.

Those who like Stop & Shop’s roadside pick-up won’t be charged for the paper bags at all, said David Oyola, the pick-up manager at the Bristol store. For a limited time, customers will also receive a reusable goodie bag filled with snacks. As of now, the roadside pick-up is free. However, after 60 days, the pick-up will cost $2.95, said Oyola.

“We kind of wanted to introduce people to it,” he added.

Stop & Shop wasn’t the only store that eliminated plastic bags completely. Big Y also followed suit and is offering discounts on reusable bags during the month of August.

“I think we’re adjusting just fine,” said Plainville store manager Mark Zimkiewicz. In February, Big Y had decided to eliminate all plastic bags by 2020, he said. “We’re just accelerating our timeline.”

Zimkiewicz added that the store was prepared for this because they have locations in Massachusetts, where many towns have already banned plastic bags.

Big Y shoppers praised the change.

“I’m all for it. Hooray! It’s about time,” said Monique Schatten.

“Personally, I like bringing in my own bags,” said Chris Perry. He said having his own bags helps him monitor what he’s buying because he just fills the bags he brought instead of an entire cart.

Though many stores are just adjusting to charging for plastic bags or eliminating them entirely, there’s one store that isn’t.

“ALDI has never offered single-use plastic shopping bags,” said Jason Hart, CEO of ALDI U.S., in a press release. At ALDI, customers must use their own bags or use cardboard boxes that the food was shipped in.

“And while we’re pleased that we’ve helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans, we want to continue to do more,” Hart continued. “The commitments we’re making to reduce plastic packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make.”

By 2025, ALDI aims to have 100% of its packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable. It also hopes to reduce packaging material by 15%, said a press release.

Last year, ALDI recycled more than 250,000 tons of paper, cardboard, plastic, metal and other materials, the press release continued.

Michelle Jalbert can be reached at

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News, Plainville on Sunday, 4 August 2019 16:05. Updated: Sunday, 4 August 2019 16:07.