Plastic bag ban met with varied response from Greenfield business owners

  • Joel Peabody, front, bags a customer’s groceries into reusable bags on Friday night at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Nick Bresciano, middle, rings up a customer at checkout while Joel Peabody, right, bags groceries into paper bags on Friday night at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Joel Peabody bags a customer’s groceries into paper bags on Friday night at Foster's Supermarket in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Reminder signs at Foster’s Supermarket in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/17/2020 11:00:13 PM
Modified: 1/17/2020 10:59:18 PM

GREENFIELD — Two days into Greenfield’s plastic bag ban, business owners have different thoughts on the ban and, in some cases, different interpretations.

Thursday was the first day Greenfield’s ordinance banning “single-use carryout bags” was in effect, applying to grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, jewelry stores, household goods stores and others. It does not include restaurants, liquor stores, religious institutions or food pantries.

Approved in an 8-4 City Council vote one year ago, the ordinance bans plastic bags, nonrecyclable paper bags and nonrecyclable bags made of other materials given “by a retail establishment to a customer at the point of sale, and that is not a recyclable paper bag or reusable bag.”

Multiple exceptions are made in the ordinance, including non-handled paper bags for medications at the pharmacy, non-handled plastic bags over clothes on hangers, and a bag to “contain an unwrapped food item or prevent contamination.”

Reactions from businesses reached Friday ranged from support of the ban, to apprehension, as well as confusion about what exactly the ordinance does.

“It really hasn’t been any different,” said Matthew Deane, co-owner of Foster’s Supermarket on Allen Street.

Deane said Foster’s planned ahead, and ran out of plastic bags a few weeks ago.

Deane added it’s been “no real big deal” since the ban went into effect, and customers have generally been willing to bring their own reusable bags made out of cloth or polyester — one of the stated reasons for the ban is to encourage reusable bags to decrease littered, burned or discarded bags.

However, Deane said he does foresee some problems with the ordinance.

“There’s going to be some minor issues,” he said. “Some items are just not conducive to being put in paper bags. For example, the wrapped chicken can get a little damp on the outside.”

Foster’s is offering recyclable paper bags at checkout for 10 cents.

For the first 12 months the ordinance is in effect, recyclable paper bags may be offered for free or any fee set by a retail establishment. After that year, the businesses must start charging at least 5 cents for each recyclable paper bag.

At Andy’s & The Oak Shoppe on Deerfield Street, Elizabeth Moore said the ban hardly effects the business, because they only used plastic bags in “rare” circumstances when a customer bought a small gift item. Andy’s typically uses paper bags, and Moore said she supports the idea of the ban.

“We’re really happy the town did it, and it will be better for the environment,” she said.

Indeed, there is language in the ordinance addressing environmental issues.

“(Reducing the usage of single-use carryout bags) is a public purpose that protects the marine environment, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, protects waterways and lowers the cost to the municipality of litter collection, recycling and solid waste disposal,” the ordinance reads.

Some were unhappy, however. At Call’s Corner Store on Conway Street, Benny Ribera said the ban is impractical. He was also under the impression the ban had not yet taken effect, and said the store is continuing to use plastic bags.

“I don’t think this is good anyway,” Ribera said. “If you put something that’s heavy in a paper bag, it will rip. If it gets wet, too. It’s no good.”

The Health Department is enforcing the ban using a complaint-based system, and will follow up on complaints to see if stores are in compliance, according to Health Inspector Tim Newton. A written warning is given for the first infraction, allowing businesses 14 days to become compliant, after which enforcing a fine of $50 per day.

Health Department workers may also enforce the ban during their other routine duties and visits to businesses.

Businesses can apply for a waiver of the ban because of “undue hardship,” which is for a variety of specific cases. A waiver would exempt retailers for up to an additional year.

The Health Department has a limited number of cloth bags for residents, free of charge, at 20 Sanderson St. between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. One bag is allowed per family.

For the full text of the ordinance, visit

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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