May 1, 2018: A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Andrew McSheffery, Senior Contributor

If you have been to a grocery store in Cohasset recently, you have probably noticed that something is different. The vibrant energy of the workers at Stop & Shop has dwindled slightly and the employees at Shaw’s seem even gloomier than usual. “What could have caused this?” you ask. Well let me tell you. On May 1st, the people of Cohasset voted in favor of a plastic bag ban for businesses in Cohasset. This ban would go into effect on November 1st, and Cohasset grocery stores would never be the same again. You may be thinking “this is for the best, paper bags are a far better alternative to plastic”. I am here to inform you why you are sorely mistaken. I could write a book defending plastic bags, detailing the negatives of this ban, and recounting experiences where paper bags have broken the spirits of customers. However, for the sake of brevity, I will save my book for another day and just give you a brief synopsis.

I am a proud employee at the local Stop & Shop, where the ramifications of this ban can be seen up close and personal. For the workers, this ban has made the job far more difficult. First and foremost, plastic bags are designed to open the proceeding bag when it is pulled off. This means that the employees of grocery stores had to do little more than to put the items in the bags and load them into the cart. However, the ban has added steps to this process. Now baggers must select individual paper bags (which are often stuck to another paper bag), open them manually, and place the items in the bag. Though this may sound like nothing, when you do this thousands of times each day, it adds up. Additionally, paper bags take up more space than plastic bags. This is a major problem for employees for two reasons. The first is that paper bags are stored on the belt (in the back right corner of this photo). Before the plastic ban, this is where fragile food such as bread, eggs, and grapes were put to avoid being crushed by heavier items after they were scanned. Now that paper bags occupy this area, fragile foods are put in harm’s way. The second problem that this creates is that these bags occupy far more room in the cart than their plastic counterparts. The size also forces baggers to put more items in each bag to avoid waste, leading to rips and bags too heavy for customers to carry.


After reading that, you may be wondering “Why should I, an upper middle class teenager, care about the plight of the working man?”. I’ll tell you. All of the things I mentioned above adversely affect the customers too. The fact that paper bags are difficult to open lead to longer wait times. Though this may not be an issue for customers of Stop & Shop, who enjoy their interactions with the hospitable staff, this is a definite issue for those who shop at Shaw’s regularly, since the longer they are in Shaw’s, the more they will be subject to its foul stench. Moreover, items now have a greater chance of being destroyed. Since these paper bags force baggers to put items in the middle of the belt as opposed to off to the side, there is a chance that heavier items will smush their purchases. Similarly, since baggers are forced to put more things in each bag, the customer runs the risk of having their food crushed. Another problem with paper bags is that they do not have handles. This means customers cannot carry their orders out by hand and if they do the feeble paper bags will likely tear and their food will be strewn across the parking lot. To avoid this problem, many recommend bringing their own reusable bag. These don’t come without their negatives either. Like paper bags, these increase the time it takes to bag each order, and leads to products getting crushed. These bags also bring unwanted things into grocery stores, including their nauseating odor. One particular bag that was opened in the Stop & Shop had a mouse jump out of it. It seems likely that this customer had previously shopped at Shaw’s, where one of the many mice there found its way into the bag.

There’s one more thing that I have failed to mention, the whole reason for the ban in the first place. This ban was intended to be beneficial for the environment. Though the voters’ motives were good, they were horribly misguided. It is a common misconception that plastic bags are more harmful for the environment than paper ones. This mainly stems from the thought that paper bags can be recycled and plastic bags can’t. This is indeed wrong. Plastic bags can be recycled, though many transfer centers, including the one in Cohasset, don’t have a place to recycle them because it is not profitable. However, any and all plastic bags can be recycled at Stop & Shop. Furthermore, the production of paper is terrible for the environment. The lumbering required to produce paper bags has led to increased deforestation, and the upheaval of species for their natural habitats. Not cool. The process of turning the lumber into paper requires energy and water, and emits a great deal of toxins and pollution into waterways and the atmosphere. Moreover, paper bags are heavier and more spacious than plastic bags. This means that it takes more trips and more fuel to transport paper bags from one place to another, thus contributing to rampant air pollution. Despite the fact that plastic bags are worse for the ecosystem when they are littered, they serve many more purposes than paper bags. Due to the fact that plastic bags are stronger than paper bags, they can be reused over and over again for a variety of purposes.

If you still believe that protecting fish from the effects of littered plastic bags is worth deforestation, air and water pollution, making the lives of customers and workers alike more difficult, and limiting a person’s freedom to choose then by all means, continue to support this plastic bag ban. For the rest, the free thinkers of society, continue to spread the word about the horrors of paper bags. Maybe one day, we can make a change for the better. Maybe one day, we can improve the world for generations to follow. Maybe one day, we will bring back plastic bags.

Andrew McSheffery is a Senior Contributor for the Cohasset Spinnaker and you aren’t. Andrew Mcsheffery survived a broken femur and you didn’t. Andrew Mcsheffery is better than you and you know it.