If one of the largest supermarket chains in New England won’t defend the plastic shopping bag from environmental attack, who will?
With Barrington poised to become the first town in Rhode Island and third in New England to ban plastic shopping bags at store checkouts, the plastics industry and its bag manufacturers were dealt a blow when Shaw’s supermarket vowed to eliminate plastic at its Barrington store whether the bags are outlawed or not.
Carrying lunch or stuck in a tree, plastic bags are a familiar part of the American consumer consciousness, but their failure to break down when thrown away has made them a top target of the environmental movement.
“I teach this class and one of the things that comes up is the big fields of plastic [floating] in the North Atlantic and Pacific and what their sources are, which led me to plastic bags and bottles,” said Joseph Roberts, an assistant political science professor at Roger Williams University and the Barrington Conservation Commission member who first proposed a plastic-bag ban. “The thinking was there should be something Barrington could do to control the problem on the local level.”
For Shaw’s the move away from plastic will not be company-wide. Instead the Barrington store will act as a pilot for the chain, which has 10 stores in Rhode Island and 169 stores in New England.
“Our general preference is for these things to be done at the state level and not town-by-town, to avoid customer confusion,” said Shaw’s spokesman Steve Sylven about ditching plastic. “But the Barrington store was one of the first to be used as a zero-waste store – with the goal to eliminate 90 percent of landfill waste from our operations - and we are also thinking about being part of our community and the discussion was made by the leadership here and the manager of the Barrington store.”
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