Fairfield stores take different approaches to new bag tax

FAIRFIELD — With a statewide plastic bag tax now in effect, Fairfield’s grocery and convenience stores are taking different approaches to the new law.

Gov. Ned Lamont signed the tax into law with the state budget in June, implementing a 10-cent fee on single-use checkout bags, which it defines as plastic bags less than four millimeters thick. The fee, which stores will pay to the state, is projected to generate $27.7 million this fiscal year.

With the Aug. 1 tax enactment marking the first milestone in this process, some local retailers are enforcing only what’s required, while others have gone above and beyond the new law.

Stop and Shop, which has two Fairfield locations on Kings Highway Cut-off and Villa Avenue, fully eliminated plastic bags at all 91 of its Connecticut stores beginning Aug. 1. It also plans to begin charging 10 cents for paper bags starting Sept. 3.

For now, customers can get free paper bags, as well as bring in plastic bags to be recycled in exchange for a free reusable bag.

Other grocery franchises in Fairfield had already eliminated plastic bags prior to the new state law. Whole Foods, which has a location on Grasmere Avenue, banned plastic bags back in 2008, but provides paper bags free of charge. To encourage sustainability, the store gives 10 cents off at checkout for each reusable bag that a customer brings.

Trader Joe’s, with a location on Black Rock Turnpike, eliminated plastic bags in its stores nationwide this March, although it still permits paper bags.

The store also provides opportunities to win free reusable bags, such as awarding customers with them when they pay with even change or if their purchase totals a series of repeating numbers.

Other Fairfield stores have continued to provide plastic bags with the 10-cent tax, including ShopRite on Black Rock Turnpike, Rite Aid on Post Road, and CVS, with four locations throughout the town.

ShopRite is offering reusable plastic bags at 12 cents apiece, as well as a two-for-one deal on sturdier reusable bags. Rite Aid is also implementing a 10-cent tax on paper bags.

Throughout stores in town on Thursday, clerks could be heard informing customers of new policies regarding single-use bags at checkout.

While many people cooperated with 10-cent fee or brought reusable bags, one customer service agent at ShopRite said many of their customers appeared frustrated with the news.

Some, he said, refused to purchase bags, instead carrying items out to their cars without bags.

The 10-cent tax is a transitional measure intended to discourage plastic bag usage before they are entirely banned in the state in July 2021.

Fairfield, however, will ban single-use plastic bags beginning on Feb. 1, 2020. In May, the RTM voted this ordinance into effect, almost 10 years after it was originally proposed.

The town is within its rights to override the state’s later implementation date, per a stipulation in the law that permits stores and municipalities to enact stricter plastic bag policies.