The state of plastic bags in Quincy

In March 2020, in the name of health and safety, my family temporarily retired our reusable grocery bags. Quincy had passed a plastic bag ban three months prior, but then we were back to single-use plastic. In August of 2020, after the CDC confirmed that surface transmission of COVID was not a threat, the state brought back local bans on single-use plastic bags and allowed for reusable plastic bags again.

We were ready, reusable bags in hand. We were ready to go back to focusing on saving the planet, reducing our carbon footprint, reducing our reliance on plastic. And we hoped that our local supermarkets, big box stores, and pharmacies would start again to encourage reusable bags. We hoped we wouldn’t have to see the flimsy plastic bags of the “before times.” Yet that hasn’t been entirely the case.

A not-so-insignificant number of stores around Quincy are still handing out single-use plastic bags. (Reminder: Please do not put plastic bags in your recycling. Bring them back to the grocery store for recycling.)

According to the Quincy License Board, the city’s plastic bag ban is still suspended until April 1, 2022, at which point it will be reinstated and enforced. Stores can satisfy the plastic bag ordinance in multiple ways, with varying degrees of benefit to the environment. (Some exclusively use paper bags – without charging for them. But paper bags have a steep environmental cost, including an estimated four times the carbon emissions of plastic bags.) At the end of the day, the goal is to have consumers reuse the bags they have, limiting the need for a new bag every time they enter a store.

Roche Brothers on Falls Boulevard and the new Target in North Quincy are positive examples of stores making environmentally conscientious choices. Both offer durable, reusable bags for free; Roche Brothers’ are thick plastic and Target’s are canvas, with a 5-cent discount for each reusable bag that you bring. None of those flimsy plastic bags are anywhere in sight near the checkout. And no paper bags either. They are encouraging reusability. We at QCAN would love to see more stores finding ways to limit single-use plastic and paper bag use within their stores as we try to reduce our city’s negative impact on the natural world.

QCAN members have noticed single-use plastic bags being used in recent weeks at Shaw’s, Star Market, 99 Ranch, Good Health Natural Foods, Walmart, CVS, Fratelli’s, and Roxie’s. We support the City of Quincy’s reinstatement of the plastic bag ordinance and hope it will be enforced along with the addition of a modest surcharge on paper bags. We are a city that is directly affected by climate change, and every action – big and small – makes a difference.

Have you noticed your grocery store handing out single-use plastic bags? If so, consider reminding them of the Quincy ordinance coming back into effect. Let them know you care. And if your local store has been doing a good job, don’t forget to thank them for doing so.

– Gina Favata, QCAN board member

IMAGE: Reusable bags at the new Target in North Quincy. (Photo: Julie Mallozzi)