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The Chicopee City Council discusses a plastic bag ban during its April 2 meeting.
Reminder Publishing screen capture by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — During the City Council meeting on April 2, members discussed a motion that would get rid of plastic check-out bags including all plastic carryout bags provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale.

The order was filed by President Frank Laflamme, Vice President Robert Zygarowski as well as Ward 4 City Councilor George Balakier and Ward 6 City Councilor Samuel Shumsky.

Shumsky explained the reasoning to submitting the motion and that it is something he has been working on since his time with the School Committee.

“I have received dozens of phone calls, I have talked to dozens of residents, and frankly, I think it is just disgusting to see how much trash is littering the streets, especially bags. I don’t believe it’s fair to the residents that live near retail establishments that have to suffer due to people littering,” Shumsky said.

One of the main areas of focus is the row of retail stores at the 591 Memorial Dr. Supercenter off Sheridan Street that includes Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree and Five Below. Shumsky talked about this area being the main concern for plastic bags littering the neighborhood.

He said, “I happen to drive by Chicopee marketplace where Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, that whole plaza down Sheridan Street multiple times a day and the amount of trash hanging from the trees, I call them trash ornaments, and the amount of trash that residents have to deal with.”

The motion was agreed to be sent to the Ordinance Subcommittee. If the motion does pass, it will not take effect until Oct. 1 for retail establishments 50,000 square feet or greater and June 2025 for retail establishments less than 50,000 square feet. If passed, no retail store within the city, including restaurants, convenience stores, or supermarkets can provide plastic bags to customers.

This is not the first time neighbors and the City Council have discussed the plastic bag issues in the city as the discussion of implementing an ordinance has been going back to as far as 2016.

Last year, the Chicopee License Committee and City Council called in representatives from the Memorial Drive Walmart to discuss the licenses they currently have, including compliance with restrictions imposed upon any of the licenses.

The issues for which Walmart was called before the committee included excessive trash.

At the time, Chicopee Walmart Manager Wendy Hubbard recognized the trash issue and said she cleans up the parking lot about three to four times a week with other businesses being at fault as well.

Resident Dan Hackett has continued to voice his concerns about the trash in that area for years and was at the City Council meeting to continue looking for answers.

He said, “Almost a year ago we were [in City Hall] with people representing Walmart and they were going to stop the trash coming into our neighborhood. Well, all of the things that were promised, none of them have happened. I spent two hours today on a ladder and around taking plastic bags, 90% from Walmart, off the trees in my property, my neighbors’ property. This has gone on too long.”

Hackett added that he would like to see Walmart be held accountable for their actions.

Balakier mentioned how this is not only a problem in Chicopee, but also throughout the country.

He added, “I know that there has been a lot of discussion on this, and I think this is something, especially in light of the constituents that live in Ward 6, this is a situation that really needs to be addressed and if need be, we need to have some teeth out there so to speak.”

Balakier said stores like Walmart may need to start getting fined if the situation doesn’t fix itself.

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