Disposable shopping bag use drops by a third since 2007 in Mass.

The use of disposable shopping bags in Massachusetts dropped by a third since 2007, state officials and food retailers announced today.

“A 33 percent reduction in the use of disposable plastic and paper bags is impressive, and I applaud the public-private partnership that helped to make it possible,’’ Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said. “I want to thank the grocery stores and supermarkets for working with [the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection] to reduce disposable bag use, and the public for responding to their efforts.’’

In 2007, DEP asked 12 supermarket chains, which together comprise more than two-thirds of the retail food industry in Massachusetts, to start tracking annual paper and plastic bag use. At the time, the goal was a reduction of 33 percent by 2013 – a goal the state now says they reached two years early.

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“By achieving a 33 percent reduction in the use of disposable paper and plastic bags by using an incentive-based, voluntary approach, we have shown that a balance between environmental stewardship and consumer choice can achieve significant results,’’ said Christopher Flynn, president of the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents food retailers. “We look forward to continuing our work with the state to build upon this success and further reduce the reliance on disposable bags in our stores.’’

Each supermarket attempted to encourage customers to use reusable bags, sometimes by offering them for sale or by offering cash incentives, such as a discount, for customers who brought their own bags, the statement said. Many stores also trained staff to be less wasteful in using paper and plastic bags and started accepting used plastic bags for recycling.

The 12 participating chains were Big Y, Crosby’s, Market Basket, Donelan’s, Foodmaster, Hannaford Bros., Price Chopper, PriceRite, Roche Bros., Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and Trucchi’s.

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