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Paying for paper or plastic bags

Lake Placid’s Price Chopper store initiates green policy; customer feedback supportive

LAKE PLACID — It costs 5 cents now when groceries at the Price Chopper here are packed into a plastic bag or paper bag without handles.

The price is 10 cents each for paper bags with handles provided by the store.

On the other hand, shoppers are credited 3 cents for each reusable bag, box or tote they bring in themselves.

“Both plastic and paper bags are disposable and detrimental to the environment,” Mona Golub, Price Chopper’s vice president of public relations and consumer services, said in a press release.

The policy is driven, Price Chopper said, by the recognition that retailers enable the reliance on disposable bags, which end up in the waste stream after one or two uses.

Instead, the grocery store chain, owned by Golub Corporation, aims to push shoppers to provide their own “heavy-duty reusable alternatives.”

The Lake Placid store, located at 1930 Saranac Ave., is the second in the chain to take the step; the Price Chopper in Brattleboro, Vermont, instituted the initiative last October.

Both stores advised customers of the coming change three months ahead of time; signs went up in the Lake Placid location in October.

Ambivalence

Megan Lyon, who shops there, calls the new policy “a great idea.

“I, normally, use the reusable bags to get my 3 cents each back,” she posted on the Press-Republican Facebook page in response to a question asking shoppers their opinion. “But I do think most people don’t care about the 5 cents they will be charged per bag. I have been behind some who just aren’t (fazed) by it.”

She suggested upping the price per bag might influence more shoppers to bring their own.

And Lyon expressed some ambivalence, too, as did many who weighed in.

When it comes to the plastic bags the store now charges 5 cents for, she noted, “I do like to reuse them as garbage bags for our bathroom garbage cans.”

Marilyn Acker, another shopper at the Lake Placid store, said she has mixed feelings about the program.

“I always bring my own bag to Pr. Chopper but most of the time if I don’t ask for it, I do not get the 3 cent refund,” she said. “Either you are going to do it or not.”

Preserve the landscape

And others expressed glowing support.

“I’ve never been to the Lake Placid store,” Ashley Grosskopf wrote, “but as a Plattsburgh resident I would love to see this at Market 32 (Price Chopper’s brand in Plattsburgh) or the surrounding grocery stores.

“We need to start making changes now with our plastic use if we want to preserve our landscape from years to come. If plastic bags became a norm at one point in stores, we can certainly make it the norm to bring our own bags!”

Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator and visiting professor at Bennington College in Vermont, expanded on Grosskopf’s observation about the environment.

“Billions of plastic bags are used in the U.S. each year, with less than 5% being recycled and large amounts being swept into rivers and streams and ultimately the ocean,” she said in the release.

“While stopping the use of plastic bags is key, it is imperative that consumers shift from disposable to reusable bags.

“Price Chopper’s innovative and effective approach will encourage this shift. It is easy for consumers, once they start getting in the habit of bringing their own bags. Hats off to Price Chopper for taking this major step that I hope other supermarkets around the country will follow.”

Change is challenging

Paper bags are more costly to recycle than plastic bags and don’t biodegrade easily in landfills, given their inherent lack of oxygen, Price Chopper said.

And they are less likely than plastic bags to be reused and have a higher cost and larger carbon footprint associated with their production and distribution.

“Behavioral change is a challenge in this convenience-driven era,” Golub said, “but the prospect of retail, government, consumers and environmental advocates working together to diminish the production, distribution and disposal of bag waste has great merit, now and into the future.

“Price Chopper/Market 32 fully supports this effort and is committed to investing our resources in changing the way we purchase, stock, distribute, promote, sign and pack reusables in an effort to help our customers transition to whichever long term solution best suits them.”

Price Chopper didn’t immediately respond to an email asking whether other North Country stores — including Plattsburgh, Champlain and Malone — will adopt the policy.

Patchwork legislation

Price Chopper introduced its grocery bag solution in New York state just ahead of what is expected to be a plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass a law this year banning single-use shopping bags.

Last year, the governor gave his OK to a bill from the state Legislature that blocked New York City’s attempt to make mandatory a 5 cent fee on plastic bags there.

He then appointed the Plastic Bags Task Force that released an 88-page report that, in part, recommends a statewide ban.

It does not include barring use of paper bags, however.

Regardless of what happens in the coming months statewide, however, Price Chopper has its own program rolling.

“With patchwork legislation being discussed all around us, though seldom passed, we decided to take a stand and exercise prudence in moving the issue forward, ourselves,” Golub said.

Based in Schenectady, the Golub Corporation owns and operates 133 Price Chopper and Market 32 grocery stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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