Paper Bag Use is Way Up in Newton

To follow up on paper bag use one year after the implementation of Newton’s Plastic Bag Ordinance, City Councilor Alison Leary and a Newton South High School student canvassed CVS and Walgreens stores in Needham and Newton to compare the distribution of plastic and paper bags to customers. They found that all CVS and Walgreens stores in Needham (with no plastic bag ban, but considering one) use only plastic, and quite a lot of it. The Newton stores report using the same amount of paper bags as plastic bags.

These are their findings:

  • At the CVS on Highland Ave. in Needham around 6,000 plastic bags are given to customers each week.
  • At the Walgreens in Needham around 3,000 to 4,000 plastic bags are given to customers each week.
  • At the CVS in Needham on Great Plain Ave. around 3,000 plastic bags are given to customers each week.
  • At the CVS store in Newton Centre around 3,000 paper bags are given to customers each week. The manager reported using the same number of bags since before the ordinance went into effect, but now they are paper bags, which are more expensive.
  • At the Walgreens on the corner of Beacon St. and Walnut St. in Newton they still use about the same number of bags. Customers are not bringing their own bags. They don’t sell reusable bags and there is no effort to encourage reusable bags. When asked, the Store Manager said he would be open to a fee on paper bags.
Their findings reinforce the fact that volunteer programs do not work and that we have a long way to go to change consumer habits. Councilor Leary also reported the following comment from Mike Orr, the Waste Reduction Program Manager in Cambridge, which has a ban on plastic and a 10 cent fee on paper bags.
Charging for a bag is EXTREMELY effective. Cambridge has experienced 50-80% reduction in paper or plastic bag use at the major grocery stores. We have 3 Whole Foods, 2 Trader Joe’s and 3 Star Markets. Small business like the charge because they spend less on bags and doesn’t disproportionately hurt their business.
Please see the attached press release from the City of Cambridge (PressRelease_BYOB120Days_FINAL) . It is well worth reading.