If you've been putting off investing in reusable shopping bags, you're in luck.

A statewide ban of single-use plastic bags begins on March 1. Dutchess and Ulster Counties already have a plastic shopping bag ban in effect, forcing shoppers to remember to bring their own reusable bags.

Stop and Shop said that it will be charging customers five cents per paper bag to help encourage customers to switch over to reusable bags. In a press release, Stop and Shop President Gordon Reid said the fee will also benefit the community.

By charging 5 cents for paper, we’re encouraging our customers to make the switch to reusable bags, while also supporting local nonprofits that are doing important work to protect and preserve the environment in New York state.

One of the organizations that will receive funds from the bag fee is Riverkeeper, which works to help clean and beautify the Hudson River.

A. Boris

For those who still don't have reusable bags, Stop and Shop will be handing them out for free starting on Feb. 22. Stores in the Hudson Valley will have information tables set up to educate customers on the benefits of reusing their shopping bags. Employees will be answering questions about the bag ban and handing out free bags to customers who bring in single-use bags for recycling.

You can exchange your old, plastic bags for one reusable bag per person, per visit while supplies last. The bags will be recycled into material used to make children's playgrounds, decking and outdoor furniture.

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