Massy Stores announced that from July 4, they will be charging customers 50 cents for each plastic shopping bag used. This change will take place after the International Plastic Bag Free Day that’s celebrated annually on July 3 to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags.
This is a big leap since last year’s “No Plastic Day” in which no plastic bags were offered at checkout. Branded reusable bags were available for just $10, though, and anyone who walked with their own was awarded five Massy points. In 2009, the grocery—then “Hi-Lo Food Stores”—first introduced reusable shopping bags as part of the Reusable Green Bag initiative. Over time, the grocery has made bold moves to reduce waste and continues to do so.
Plastic bags, like all plastics, are made from oil and they are not biodegradable. Instead, they photo-degrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits. One plastic bag alone can take between 400 to 1,000 years to break down completely, causing over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year. And even though the average person uses a plastic bag for about 12 minutes, each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That adds up to over one million per minute and billions of it end up occupying our landfills and oceans.
According to new research from other countries that charge for bags, enforcing fees do actually reduce their overall usage. So, with this change, we’re taking one step in the right direction.
You may shake your head and say that other stores like Fresh Organics (charging $1 for each recycled paper bag) and Price Smart (repurposing cardboard boxes for transport from the store to the car) have implemented eco-friendly changes already, but it’s important to recognise the iconic status that Massy Stores has had in Trinidad for decades. From Chaguaramas to Point Fortin, Massy Stores has locations scattered all over the nation and everyone from your grandma to your little brother has visited the store at least three times. While other establishments focus on niche markets and selected areas, Massy Stores caters to the masses. This is a big deal, people!
This will undoubtedly be the most effective eco-friendly action taken by a locally-owned grocery store. So unless you’re living under a rock, you’ll either be charged 50 cents for multiple plastic bags or walk with your bags to Massy Stores (try the latter).
Yes, we’ll miss having a bag full of bags stored in our kitchens cabinets—because that’s a must in every Caribbean household—but if this will save our planet, we’re all for it.