Sunday was the first day New York's plastic bag ban went into effect for most retailers.
But not all area retailers were rushing to comply.
The state's Department of Environmental Conservation was not expected to begin immediate enforcement of the ban on Sunday. And in light of a legal challenge filed by New York City's corner grocers and delis, among others, the agency announced last week that it would delay the enforcement of the ban until April 1.
A Sunday visit to the Walden Galleria found that a majority of retailers there were providing handled paper bags to customers. Shoppers toted red and white paper bags from H&M, green and brown bags from Dick's Sporting Goods, and an assortment of other paper bags from retailers ranging from New York and Company, and Express to FYE and Zara.
But conspicuous among those mall retailers were major stores like JCPenney and Old Navy, which continued to pack up items in the same plastic bags they've always handed out to customers. Shoppers also continued to carry plastic bags from retailers like Forever 21, Finish Line and Made in America.
Mall patrons ordering takeout from food court or restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory were also carrying plastic bags since such restaurant vendors are exempt from the ban.
Some other stores appeared to give out a mix of both paper and plastic bags, with different shoppers carrying different types of bags from the same mall retailers.
Meanwhile, at Best Buy, which has traditionally given out clear plastic bags at the register as a security measure, mall cashiers preferred to give customers buying only a few items no bag at all. Instead, they just handed customers a receipt.
Katie Cromartie, who traveled up from Jamestown with her mother, sister and daughter, walked the mall loaded down with an assortment of handled paper bags, as well as a bulging plastic bag from Old Navy. She said she was partial to the handled paper bags.
"I think they look way more classy," she said.
Her mother, Billie Szablewski, added that she thought the flat-bottomed paper bags were more stable than the plastic bags.
But grocery store customers weren't quite as content with the paper bags at area supermarkets, virtually all of which have been charging a fee for paper bags for some time or started charging on Sunday. Wegmans ceased using single-use plastic bags on Jan. 27 and began charging customers 5 cents for paper bags.
Tops began charging 5 cents per paper bag on Sunday, after weeks of reminders to customers about the March 1 plastic bag ban. Last week, the store issued a discount coupon for its reusable bags, along with a reminder about the state law in its newspaper ads.
A visit to one busy Tops location Sunday found that all single-use plastic bags and paper bags had been removed from the self-checkout stations. Instead, a screen came up asking customers if they would like to purchase paper bags for 5 cents each and asked how many they would like. Those bags were then provided by the Tops staffer monitoring the self-checkout lanes. Reusable bags were also available for purchase.
While many customers brought in their reusable bags, those who didn't were forced to choose between buying bags or having all their grocery items scanned and set back into their carts loose.
The latter was the outcome for Depew resident Jacquie Super, who stopped into Tops on impulse and forgot to bring reusable bags in with her. Sitting loose in her cart were 10 cans of Chef Boyardee on special, coffee pods, a container of fresh strawberries, bottles of Powerade and several boxes of chicken broth, among other purchases.
She admitted this was the second time she'd been caught unprepared to deal with the lack of plastic bags. The first time was at Wegmans, when it instituted the bag ban early.
Super said she wasn't a fan of big government regulations and wished more consumers were simply more diligent about reusing and recycling regular plastic bags so they didn't become a pollution hazard.
"Just be responsible, and the world will be a better place," she said.
She also said that while she was chagrined to be rolling unbagged groceries to her car, she wasn't caught completely flat-footed. She had reusable bags waiting inside her vehicle. She just had to bag everything herself, which was cheaper than the alternative.