Easthampton residents and business owners have mixed views on plastic bag ban

  • Catherine Tanguay, of Easthampton, talks about the use of plastic bags in Easthampton after shopping at Family Dollar.

  • Chelsea Dawson bags a costumers purchases in a plastic bag at Manchester Tru-Value in Easthampton.

For the Gazette
Published: 8/5/2016 3:00:03 PM

EASTHAMPTON – While the nearby communities of Northampton and Amherst have passed ordinances prohibiting single-use plastic bags, Easthampton is taking its time on the trend.

Northampton’s plastic bag ordinance has been in effect since January. Amherst, which already prohibits the use of Styrofoam containers, has a plastic bag ban that will begin on Jan. 1, 2017.

But Easthampton is still looking into a possible ban and working to gather more information before an ordinance on plastic bags is written.

The Easthampton City Council Ordinance Subcommittee has held two public forums, in May and July. Chairman Salem Derby said committee members want to have more forums to gather public input before locking in a proposal.

Derby said subcommittee members are open to finding alternative ways to reduce bag waste, including incentives such as charging a nickel at checkout for each bag used.

Among residents and businesspeople, opinions vary.

“I avoid bags,” said Easthampton resident Alysa Grisé. As she picked up a few items from the Family Dollar store, she put them in her backpack after checking out. She said shopping bags —paper and plastic — are a waste.

Instead of prohibiting businesses from using plastic bags, Grisé suggests offering businesses an incentive such as a tax break or some other bonus for not using bags.

David Etheredge opposes the ban. He said the plastic bags are more convenient and can be used at home to collect trash or dirty diapers.

Jessica Campos likes to reuse plastic bags. After shopping at Big E’s Supermarket, Campos said Northampton’s ban on plastic bags is a reason she doesn’t shop for groceries in the neighboring city.

Some local establishments, like Easthampton Diner Restaurant, use plastic bags frequently. Manager Debbie Gondek said the restaurant serves large portions and many customers take home leftovers in a plastic “thank you” bag.

Gondek said many diners are elderly and a plastic bag is more convenient for them to carry.

“They need a bag with a handle,” she said.

Manchester True Value Hardware owner Carol Perman said the store uses plastic bags as well as a variety of paper bags for nails and other heavy or sharp products.

“(The ban) will affect us, but we are pretty adaptable,” Perman said.

Easthampton resident Kevin Bongiovanni usually carries a reusable bag, but often forgets it at home or in the car. He said the ban on plastic bags would be a positive.

Bongiovanni picks up trash off the bushes along his yard, which separates his home from the road. Among beer cans, Styrofoam and plastic bottles, he said the vast majority of trash he finds is plastic bags.

James "JP" Kwiecinski, Easthampton city councilor and clerk of the ordinance subcommittee, said more than 30 Massachusetts communities have ordinances banning single-use plastic bags.

State lawmakers are looking into the issue as well. The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill this year that included a provision banning single-use carryout bags at retail establishments 3,000 square feet or larger, according to the Boston Globe. The provision didn’t make it through the House. 

Some Easthampton stores and restaurants such as Comics N’ More, Silver Spoon Restaurant and Tandem Bagel Company have been using paper bags and said they won’t be much affected by a ban on plastic bags.

Shannon and Brian Greenwood, owners of Tandem, try to eliminate waste by using compostable cutlery and cups as well as paper bags when needed.

“I feel guilty putting plastic into the environment,” Brian Greenwood said.

Their cutlery is made from corn, and cups used for water and parfaits come from a plant-based material.

However, Greenwood said the “environmentally friendly” products are not as sturdy as plasticware, and are more expensive. To reduce waste and costs, Tandem employees ask customers if they need a bag or a knife and fork.

If they say yes, Shannon Greenwood said, “We know when our customer throws it away it’s not going to linger in a landfill.”



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