MANCHESTER — The use of the plastic shopping bag was formally wrapped up when the town’s ban went into effect at the start of the month, and now, weeks later, some say the difference is as thin as the film the bags are made of.
Meanwhile, the Marblehead Board of Health voted last week to bring a similar ban to Marblehead Town Meeting in May. The board cited waste reduction efforts and impacts on the environment as a reason for proposing the ban.
The management of Crosby’s Marketplace is opposing the bid for a bag ban in Marblehead, as it did when Manchester’s ban went before voters, saying the company has made efforts to reduce the use of both paper and plastic bags.
Such a ban only increases the use of paper bags, which also impact the environment, considering the loss of trees and the amount of water used to produce them, said Bob Vello, general manager of the chain which has stores in both towns. Paper bags are more expensive at 10 cents each, he said. Plastic ones are 3 cents.
Manchester Selectman Paul Barclay said there haven’t been any problems since the ban went into effect Jan. 1. However, selectmen did extend the ban’s effective date to January — it had been scheduled to take effect last July — because several small-business owners were unaware the ban would apply them, he said.
“It has been seamless,” he said. “I haven’t received a single complaint, and here we are in the third week of January.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Crosby’s is selling more reusable bags,” said Barclay, who said he often shops at Crosby’s, which was the largest retailer affected in town. “Maybe it is good for everybody.”
Crosby’s donates 5 cents to a charity every time customers bring their own reusable bags, Vello said. At the Manchester Crosby’s, the company decided to provide only paper bags without handles to bring the cost down, Vello said.
“We do have a number of customers that are surprised we don’t have plastic bags,” Vello said. “We do have some customers who prefer plastic, but we can’t have them.”
Crosby’s customers aren’t the only ones requesting plastic.
“I’m using paper bags now. They’re not very strong,” said Karen Roeller, owner of North Coast Too! on Union Street. Paper can be problematic when it’s raining or snowing, she said, and that’s when some customers have requested plastic.
Heavy-duty plastic bags are allowed under Manchester’s bylaw, and Roeller said she has considered switching. “I don’t think that would be perceived very well. The whole point was to get rid of the plastic,” she said.
Roeller and her counterpart at Zak’s, a Beach Street gift store, had purchased their plastic bags in advance of the ban taking place. It was originally supposed to take place directly after last year’s Annual Town Meeting in April, meaning the money they spent on ordering their custom plastic bags would have been wasted.
Roeller said she has only one box of plastic bags left. Now, she’s considering donating them to an establishment in Beverly similar to the Salvation Army.
But, despite the leftover plastic and occasional paper problems, there is no real difference in business.
“I don’t think (the bag ban has) affected business,” she said. “The weather has affected business.”
Manchester Department of Public Works Director Bill Fitzgerald said plastic bags are not accepted in recycling and go into local trash cans.
The town transports residents’ personal trash from homes to a waste energy facility in North Andover and so far has seen no difference in waste costs with the removal of plastic bags from the waste stream.
“I would guess (the bags are) so light they don’t affect our tonnage cost,” he said.
“I think it is all working out OK,” Roeller added.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps contributed to this story by James Niedzinski, who can be reached at 978-675-2708 or firstname.lastname@example.org.