Chestertown has two supermarkets: ACME, with 163 locations in the U.S., is a subsidiary of Albertsons that has thousands of locations under many brand names; and Redner’s, which has 64 sites in the U.S., and is employee-owned and headquartered in Pennsylvania. We are also lucky to have the farmers’ market and locally-owned specialty shops.
Locally, the supermarkets butt heads on prices, rewards, service, brands and, strangely enough, take-home bags. Competition is a wonderful thing, but to be honest, I don’t see it having much effect on either store. I assume the two big stores know there is zero likelihood of more competition. I personally look forward to having a reason to go to Easton or Centreville, where I know I can have a third or fourth choice for grocery shopping.
Most well-run supermarkets proudly display photos of the store manager and department managers at the front of the store. Managers featured in these photos are often seen in the store speaking with customers. After seven years of shopping in Chestertown, I’m not sure either local store even has a manager. If so, he or she must hide in the back somewhere.
The real reason I am taking a detour from my usual storytelling and climbing up on a soapbox is what happened recently in one of the grocery stores. A new plastic bag appeared. That brought me to wonder why.
All plastic bags are bad for the environment and have been banned in 74 countries. In Baltimore, just this year, a ban on single-use plastic bags (SUPB) was passed. Chestertown voted to ban SUPB in 2011. In my opinion it was worthless.
I have not reviewed the actual town ordinance, but I have read several newspaper accounts from the time. The ordinance did not ban “recyclable” plastic. Of course, today, every bag, wrapper and container claims to be recyclable. The deception in that is, according to a 2018 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only 10% of plastic of all types is actually recycled.
Another frightening fact is that everything ever made of plastic is still on earth — unless we count space, where it will also last forever.
In Maryland, we produce 13 million tons of solid waste annually; 13% is plastic, including plastic bags. Some of the trash will take hundreds of years to decompose. Recycling of SUPB is actually not possible at the local level by today’s recycling methods. It clogs up equipment and can cause fires. Therefore, plastic bags and packaging material (wrappers) should not be included with other recyclables (cans, bottles, paper).
If you watch any news programs you must have seen the disturbing stories of the harm that plastic, in general, is causing and SUPBs in particular. Even so, too many of us shake our heads and say, “The few bags I throw away can’t make a difference.”
Try this! Instead of throwing any plastic bags in the trash, save every bag for a month. You will be amazed. Then multiply your bags by the 10,000 + homes in Kent County, and on and on. You get the idea.
What got to me was this new bag and the language printed on it — an apparent attempt to justify its manufacture and use. If you can, don’t use them. If you must, do not put them in the blue recycle bins or in the trash. The only approved way to recycle plastic bags is by returning them to the store they came from.
Let’s take a look at this label.
The “LDPE 4” designates that the bag is made of “Low-Density Polyethylene.” There are hundreds of websites dedicated to the pros and cons of plastic. Chariot Energy posted a very informative article in February of this year. They conclude that plastic, in general, can take from 20 to 500 years to decompose. The term REUSABLE BAG is accurate, and they claim these can be used 125 times. I can’t imagine anyone using a bag 125 times, and that statement only proves to me that the manufacturer is promoting the indestructibility of his product. Indestructible in our landfills, waterways, and oceans. If you can’t use your bags 125 times, please take them back to a participating store for recycling.
Somewhere in a plush office, the decision to purchase and use this new plastic bag was made. I would bet the decision was made with only an eye on the bottom line and with no concern to what boils down to the well-being of thousands of their customers. What a shame!
I like to think most individuals are coming around to recycling, but corporate America needs to do its part. There are many biodegradable products available. Try this one — it’s called paper.
Keep the mask on where required, but dispose of it properly. Thanks.
Bill Minus is a storyteller who lives in Chestertown and writes about memories and observations.