By Mandy Valencia
Starting Monday, all Ray’s Food Place, Pharmacy Express and Shop Smart locations — 65 grocery stores and 15 pharmacies in all — will stop offering plastic grocery bags.
“I started here in the days before we used plastic bags,” said Scott South, grocery manager for the Central Point Ray’s Food Place and an employee for 20 years. “I think it will be an easy transition.”
Paper bags will be offered, and customers will be encouraged to bring reusable bags with a 5-cent credit for each reusable bag they bring.
“From a company standpoint, we’re always trying to find the best way to be good stewards of our environment,” said Grant Lunde, director of marketing for C&K Market, the parent company of Ray’s Food Place. “Stopping plastic bag waste has been a big step in the right direction.”
Ray’s joins other local stores such as Albertsons in Ashland, Shop’n Kart and the Ashland Food Co-op that stopped offering plastic bags to customers.
The company tested using only paper and reusable bags in three of its California stores last year with positive results, said Lunde.
“We had really good success with that. We did training with our staff to make sure they are bagging most efficiently with paper bags, and we have some new paper-bag designs,” said Lunde.
Reusable bags, designed by Brookings artist Spencer Reynolds, are being offered in the stores for .99 cents. The bags have images of mountains and evergreens on them that represent “Ray’s country,” according to Lunde.
The change will have no effect on the company’s expenses, meaning no extra cost to customers.
“Plus, paper is compostable and is much better,” said Lunde.
The stores will keep a small supply of plastic bags on hand for wet meat items or for special requests, such as if someone on a bicycle really needs one, said South.
To ease people into the transition, customers who bring reusable bags — including paper bags — will be entered to win $25 gift cards in weekly drawings until Feb. 14. Cashiers will distribute the raffle tickets to customers at the check stand.
“I’m surprised, I didn’t expect that to happen,” said customer Paul Beauchamp, 71. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
Herb Harthun, 80, of Central Point, said he thinks the change is good.
“(Plastic bags) don’t break down at the landfills and they fill up the ocean,” he said.
Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.