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Source: White Plains Patch

Local Grocers Get Report Cards for Reusable Bags

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment handed out its report cards on Thursday to ten local grocery stores on their reusable bag policies.


Posted: June 29, 2011
Originally Published: June 28, 2011

Image of Hudson Valley Program Coordinator Matt Wallach, Director of Marketing and External Communications at Stop and Shop Amy Murphy, Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, and Program Coordinator Tara Bono.

From left to right: Hudson Valley Program Coordinator Matt Wallach, Director of Marketing and External Communications at Stop and Shop Amy Murphy, Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, and Program Coordinator Tara Bono. Credit Brian Marschhauser

School may be out for summer, but that's not stopping the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) from handing out their report cards.

The CCE, an environmental advocacy group with offices in White Plains, analyzed and evaluated reusable bag policies of ten separate Westchester grocery store chains and presented the results of its research Tuesday morning at Stop & Shop on Westchester Avenue, which received an A+.

Along with Stop & Shop and Walmart, other chains had their Westchester reusable bag policies evaluated in the Bring Your Own Bag (B.Y.O.B.) campaign, including: A&P, Deciccio’s, Mrs. Green’s, Pathmark, ShopRite, Stew Leonard’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. (Full report card below)

On the lower end of the totem pole was Walmart, which was the only store in the report to receive a D. The group believes its findings will provide incentives for such stores to improve.

“The incentive is the grade,” said CCE Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, who added that it also pays to be environmentally friendly. “Those plastic bags cost one-and-a-half cents per bag. So whenever somebody brings their own bags, and they save four or five plastic bags, they're saving money.”

A single person may only save each store a nickel, however, those nickels add up over time. According to the report, Americans use between 300-700 plastic bags per year, totaling $100 billion domestically.

“The addiction to disposable bags is unsustainable and unnecessary,” said CCE Hudson Valley Program Coordinator Matt Wallach. “It's a habit that we need to break and can break with a little bit of effort.”

Members of the CCE interviewed stores and talked to people at corporate headquarters as well as posing undercover as shoppers. Multiple stores for each chain were surveyed from Westchester.

Stores were graded on sale and promotion of reusable bags, signage posted outside and around the store, training of cashiers to remind customers, customer education and monetary incentives.

While a reduction of plastic bags may monetarily benefit stores in the long run, that is just icing on the cake for the CCE—which is most concerned with the negative effects such bags have on the environment.

“Plastic bags pollute rivers, streams; stick to our trees and fences; and cover up our open spaces," said Wallach, who worried about the effect such bags have on the wildlife living at the Hudson River and the Long Island Sound.

"Plastic bags cannot be digested. They get trapped in the digestive tracts of animals causing suffocation and strangulation."

The CCE cited Washington D.C.’s recent progress in the area as proof that significant reduction of disposable bags is not unrealistic. In January, Washington D.C. implemented a fee of five cents per every disposable bag used by shoppers. According to Esposito, the bill helped cut usage of such bags by 74 percent in the first four months.

Additional fees may indeed discourage shoppers from using plastic bags, however, some admit that facts alone may not do the trick.

“I’m as guilty of it as anybody,” said shopper Peter Cook, 44, of White Plains. “It’s just a hard habit to break.”

With the grades finalized, the CCE will send the cards to the stores as well as conducting follow-up discussions. Esposito is hoping the grades will serve as a wake-up call to stores who rated poorly.

“If you were in school and you had a grade and got D's, you'd think: 'I gotta do a little better.’”

Download/read the report