The seven largest stores in Needham are now complying with the Select Board’s Plastic Checkout Bag Policy.
The Select Board’s Plastic Checkout Bag Policy was adopted on March 20, 2018. It requested that the largest stores in town (over 3,500 square feet) discontinue the use of single-use plastic shopping bags. Green Needham’s Plastic Bag Ban team led an effort asking the board to adopt a ban on single-use plastic bags by retailers in Needham.
At a February 27th, 2018 standing-room-only Select Board public hearing on the problems of plastic bags, virtually every resident in attendance supported a bylaw prohibiting the bags. The Select Board decided against creating a bylaw – choosing instead to request the largest stores to voluntarily discontinue single-use checkout bags – after securing a commitment from CVS, Petco, Roche Bros and Sudbury Farms, Staples, Trader Joe’s and Walgreens to stop using them by June 1, 2018.
Roche Bros and Sudbury Farms responded quickly, immediately shifting to offering only paper bags to their shoppers. Volante Farms voluntarily stopped providing the bags, even though it was not covered by the Select Board Policy. Trader Joe’s had never used them. Progress with the other stores took longer. Rob Fernandez, Chair of Green Needham’s Plastic Bag Ban team, particularly appreciated that this past year’s Select Board Chair, Dan Matthews, “advocated directly and was persistent in following up with the remaining retailers.” Today, all the largest stores are complying with the town’s policy.
These efforts are part of a broader movement to curb plastic bag use and waste. In Massachusetts, ninety-three cities and towns have passed plastic bag legislation. A state-wide plastic bag bill (House 771 and Senate 462) filed in January has been co-signed by ninety-eight state legislators, including Needham’s Denise Garlick and Becca Rasuch. California and Hawaii have instituted bans, and the State of Washington is considering one. Globally, New Zealand moved forward last August with a country-wide ban on these single-use plastic bags, bringing the total number countries that have stopped using them to over fifty.
Here in Needham, we recognize that it is equally important to encourage reusable bag use. That’s a change in how we have traditionally shopped, but a choice that more and more people are making. It’s a choice that isn’t just good for the environment, it saves money for consumers and retailers. With the support of the Select Board, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick and Support Services Manager Sandy Cincotta led the town’s purchase of 10,000 reusable bags. The bags were distributed to stores and organizations in Needham to encourage residents to “reduce and reuse.”
As with all such efforts, many people came together to make this happen. In addition to those already mentioned, Green Needham’s plastic bag ban team would like to thank:
- Former Select Board Chair Marianne Cooley, for working with us to add this issue to the Board’s agenda, and Current chair John Bulian as a resource to the team.
- the volunteers from the Needham High School Environmental Club, especially Riley Roefaro, Nina Yee, Olivia Kierstead, and Anda Gravlin
- two Needham Girl Scout troops, one led by Amy Hurley and the other by Beth Augustino and MaryAnn Riordan
- the fifth-grade class at St. Joseph’s Elementary School, and their teachers Susan Howard and Kristen Fiumara
- and Chris Thomas. As a student in the interdisciplinary program at Needham High School in 2015, Chris proposed a Needham plastic bag ban as his class project. His creativity and tireless advocacy inspired Green Needham’s team, ultimately leading to the Select Board policy and contributing to a meaningful reduction in plastic bag waste across Needham.