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    Mass. Grocers, DEP Agree to Lower Bag Use

    The five-year plan will cut the number of paper or plastic bags provided at supermarkets to 1 billion annually.

    An agreement signed yesterday by the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA) and the state’s Department of Protection at a Shaw’s store in Dorchester aims to reduce by a third the plastic and paper bags distributed by the trade group’s over 500 grocer members, including Shaw's, Stop & Shop, Market Basket, Big Y, Foodmaster, Roche Brothers and Hannaford Brothers, according to published reports.

    The five-year plan, which includes such provisions as offering customers incentives to bring in bags for recycling and reuse, and closer scrutiny of supermarket bag purchases, marks the first statewide effort to cut bags, the Boston Globe reported. The number of bags provided annually at Massachusetts grocers is estimated to be 1.5 billion.

    “We think this is the right way to go about reducing the number of bags, because charging for them would be a regressive tax and banning them would create a burden for many of our customers,” MFA president Christopher Flynn told the newspaper. “We see this as a start.”

    Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, as well as some lawmakers, believe that the voluntary reduction called for in the plan is unenforceable, however.

    “We expect this agreement will exceed our goals and lead to a major sea change in the behavior of consumers and supermarkets,” Laurie Burt commissioner of the DEP, told the Globe. “We think this is an aggressive goal to start with, and that it is achievable.” She also noted that the agreement wouldn’t prevent state legislation or local efforts to lower plastic bag use at grocers.

    In Massachusetts, efforts to ban plastic bags have arisen in Boston, Sturbridge, and in Plymouth. Outside of the Bay State, the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles have passed legislation to ban plastic bags.

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