GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 6, 2013

Left holding the bag

Shops' stylized bags also snared by Manchester bylaw

MANCHESTER — This town’s new and approaching July 1 ban on the distribution of plastic bags by local grocery stores and other retailers, approved by voters April 2 as part of Manchester’s Annual Town Meeting, is already facing its first challenge.

Some store owners will be approaching the Board of Selectmen at their Town Hall meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in an effort to get some leeway from the bylaw.

The deadline to switch from plastic to non plastic is coming up on July 1, the start of the fiscal year, and one store owner has more than 5,000 plastic bags left to get rid.

“It doesn’t look good,” Karen Park, owner of Zak’s, said Friday.

Zak’s, a gift shop on Beach Street, has been in business for 32 years and sells everything from toys and children’s books to perfume and jewelry. And on Friday, customers carried out their purchases in custom plastic bags — noticeably thicker than plastic bags used in grocery stores, convenience stores and the like.

In that vein, Park, who ordered her bags in July and received them in November, said she thought the bylaw wasn’t meant to apply to bags likes those used as Zak’s, and at other Manchester shops.

Karen Roller, proprietor of North Coast Too on Union Street said Friday she did not think the bags the stores uses would be affected either.

Roller said her typical order ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 bags and lasts anywhere from one year to 1 1/2 years.

The bylaw states new, single use bags can be used or sold in retail stores as long as they meet specific standards set by the American Society of Testing Materials. Bags used for things such as produce, newspapers, and drying cleaning, typically without handles, are exempt.

But the bylaw also defines a thin-filmed, single use plastic bag — the bags targeted by the ban — as a bag with integral handles and has a thickness less than 2.5 mils — or 2.5 one-one thousandths of an inch. Gary Gilbert, who proposed the bylaw, estimated that the bags Zak’s and some other shops use are about 2.0 mils. That means the Zak’s bags and others will, as of now, be banned from distribution as of July 1.

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