Every year in August, Island residents face difficult questions. What’s the traffic situation heading into Edgartown? Will there be parking in Menemsha?

This year a new query was added.

Are those Stop & Shop plastic bags recyclable?

“I really don’t know,” said Leslie Smith as she hustled out of her car at the Edgartown store on Tuesday. In her hand was a four-millimeter thick “ecoLoop” plastic bag the grocery chain has provided to Island customers free of charge at the checkout counter since July 1. Although every town on Martha’s Vineyard adopted a plastic bag ban almost two years ago, the Stop & Shop bags escape the ban because their thickness categorizes them as reusable. Under the bylaw, stores like Stop & Shop can give out reusable plastic or polyurethane bags free of charge.

“They are following the law to the letter, but misunderstanding the spirit,” said Samantha Look, education and youth coordinator for the Vineyard Conservation Society, which spearheaded the plastic bag ban. Ms. Look said she and her colleagues at VCS sent a letter to Stop & Shop asking them to discontinue the plastic bags at their Island stores. She has also reached out to the community relations manager at Stop & Shop’s corporate office.

“We have not heard back from either,” Ms. Look said. “So we’ve hit two dead ends.”

When Island towns wrote the bylaws, thickness was used as a threshold for determining reusability because companies didn’t have the technology or infrastructure to affordably produce four-mil thick plastic bags.

“If hindsight were 20/20, we wish we would have defined our bylaw more strictly,” Ms. Look said.

Although many Stop & Shop customers reuse the sturdier plastic bags — Ms. Smith’s bag was on its fourth use last Tuesday — the dilemma still remains of what to do with the bags once they’ve broken, ripped, or stretched to the point of disuse.

“Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?” Ms. Smith said. “Recycle them, I guess.” Unfortunately, this well-intentioned sentiment has led to headaches for the Island’s two waste disposal facilities. Neither on-Island location can recycle plastic bags. “It’s been a rough spring and summer,” said Don Hatch, who manages the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Discovery District. “The biggest offense you can have with bad recycling is plastic bags. It is the hardest thing to manage.”

Mr. Hatch’s facility, which serves the four Island district towns — Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, and Edgartown — along with Bruno’s facility in Oak Bluffs, both send their recycling to an off-Island disposal plant in Massachusetts. If too many plastic bags end up in recycling bins, it contaminates the entire recycling batch.

“What happens is bags get caught on the processing rollers meant to separate out the other recyclables,” Mr. Hatch said. “And after an hour or two that jams up the machine.”

Rather than paying $90 a ton for the material to get recycled, the off-Island site will charge Mr. Hatch’s facility $170 to toss a contaminated recycling batch in with the regular garbage. Not only is the contaminated batch more expensive, but it doesn’t get recycled, either. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.

At Bruno’s Waste Management, which serves Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, operations manager Patrick Medeiros said he’s had a similar issue.

Waste disposal facilities on the Island have had the education burden fall largely on their shoulders. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Plastic bags are the number one contaminant in single stream recycling,” Mr. Medeiros said. “Those new Stop & Shop bags have a recycling symbol on them so people assume that they can recycle them, but they just can’t. It’s absolutely misleading. Sure, they can be recycled, but the single-stream program does not accept it.”

While many off-Island recycling programs will accept plastic bags, none of those programs service the waste disposal facilities on the Vineyard. In an email, Stop & Shop communications director Jennifer Brogan said both the Vineyard Haven and Edgartown stores offer bins where customers can dispose of the ecoLoop bags. “Customers are encouraged to recycle any and all plastic with us, and the items are collected and shipped back to our distribution facility in Freetown, Mass., for proper recycling,” Ms. Brogan wrote.

The Edgartown bin is in nestled behind a magazine stand in the store’s front vestibule, while the Vineyard Haven bin is currently out of service.

Ms. Look said VCS knows about the existence of the bins but doesn’t think customers will go out of their way to recycle plastic bags at the stores.

“Although it’s lovely that they offer that as an opportunity,” she said, “people largely don’t take advantage of it. Sometimes recycling is used as a way to justify a continued use of a particular product, and the massive education program that has to accompany the reintroduction of the bags doesn’t merit their demand. Stop & Shop’s corporate leaders might not know that because they aren’t members of the community, sitting at town meetings.”

Waste disposal facilities on the Island have had that education burden fall largely on their shoulders. Mr. Hatch and Mr. Medeiros both said that they have to monitor bins for plastic bags daily.

“It’s a constant policing effort,” Mr. Hatch said. “I’ve got to go in there with a hook and fish them out.”

Bruno’s has noticed plastic bags in their curbside garbage pickup.

“The drivers have to pick through the container,” Mr. Medeiros said. “They’ll leave a reminder and a sticker. Once we educate people, it gets easier.”

Now that the facilities have had a few months for that education process to kick in, they are noticing more positive results.

“As I’ve been looking at the bins, they are showing signs of getting better,” Mr. Hatch said. “But we’ve been recycling anything and everything we think is recycling for years. And now we’ve got to retrain everybody on how to think about it.”

In an earlier email from the Stop & Shop corporate office, Ms. Brogan said the store doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of plastic bag replacements because not all towns in Massachusetts have the same type of ban.

“Some communities completely ban plastic bags, for example, so we use paper bags in those areas. Other communities have a limit on thickness, and we are testing the use of ecoLoop bags in some of those areas — which includes Martha’s Vineyard,” she wrote.

Ms. Brogan said the company began offering the ecoLoop bags for free to promote their reuse. “We listened to our customers, and many of them weren’t satisfied with the paper bags because of the need to double bag and the lack of reusability,” she wrote. “Paper bags are still available at our stores, however, if a customer prefers to use them.”

Ms. Look said she understands Stop & Shop’s well-intentioned reasoning but still feels like the bags are a step in the wrong direction.

“Not everybody liked that we switched away from plastic bags,” she said, “so I’m sure there was a lot of pushback. But as a community, we adjusted. People applauded in every town when the vote on the bag ban went through. It was a small step, but a step, and it’s a wound to the community to have that good feeling and momentum fly backwards.”

She added that she thinks the issue isn’t just about plastic bags. “There’s plastic all over the place. Carrying a different type of bag should be a quick fix so we can move on to the bigger issues. Our plan right now, if we don’t have favorable communication with Stop & Shop, is to go back and amend the bylaw. We want to stop this habit.”

This story has been updated to correct the measure of thickness used to determine reusability of bags from milimeters to mils.