Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions


Source: Southampton Patch

Southampton Village To Become First Municipality in New York To Ban Plastic Bags

Village board poised to adopt bag ban this month.


Posted: April 15, 2011
Originally Published: April 15, 2011

Following the lengthy public hearing Thursday, a majority of the Southampton Village Board indicated they will vote this month in favor of a ban on plastic bags at village stores and restaurants.

A mix of environmental advocates, business people and lobbyists spoke during the hearing at village hall on the first bag ban in New York State, debating it merits.

Ultimately, four of the five village board members supported the ban, with Trustee Paul Robinson dissenting, saying he preferred to resolve problems plastic bags pose through education, not legislation. The plan’s opponents shared his sentiment, encouraging recycling and carrying reusable bags.

The vote was delayed 12 days to April 26 due to a one-word change in the legislation, from “and” to “or.” The change came at the suggestion of McDonald’s representatives, who said that a section of the legislation mandating that paper bags must be “reusable and recyclable” should be changed because bags that take-out food has been served in should not be reused.

The legislation came at the urging of Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, the village’s “green” committee. The ban would come into play at retail stores, sidewalk sales, farmers’ markets, flea markets and restaurants. Yard sales, tag sales and sales by nonprofit organizations would be exempt. Checkout bags larger than 28 by 36 inches and produce bags would not be subject to the ban.

Claire Pertalion of Montauk, a co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation of Eastern Long Island, told the village board that her organization supports the ban and she hopes the idea will spread to East Hampton. Surfrider is dedicated to the protection of beaches and oceans.

“Every time I go to the beach, my little thing is I pick up five pieces of trash,” Pertalion said, adding that when she surfs she picks plastic bags out of the water.

“We have proposed identical legislation to this,” said Tip Brolin, the chair of Sustainable Southampton, the town of Southampton’s equivalent to the village’s SAVE committee. He said Sustainable Southampton will be presenting the proposal to the town board in the near future.

“We’re excited to think that if we do go forward with this, we will set an example,” village Trustee Nancy McGann said.

Lynne Kraszewski of Hank’s Farm Stand on County Road 39 was concerned with the viability of the plan. “It’s going to be very hard to transition the customers,” she said.

Jose Collazo, the store manager of Waldbaum’s on Jagger Lane, the village’s only supermarket, spoke in opposition to the legislation.

“Banning the bags completely is not the answer,” Collazo said. Instead, he encouraged educating the public on recycling and not littering.

He said Waldbaum’s gives customers 2 cents every time they reuse a grocery bag, at a cost of $500 a week to the store. He also pointed out that the store has recycling bins for plastic bags, which he said need to be emptied twice a day because they fill so often.

Patricia Brodhagen, the vice president of public affairs for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, based in Albany, who also addressed the board to oppose the plan, said the bins are required by state law in any store larger than 10,000 square feet.

Recycled plastic bags supply an industry that turns bags into decking, fencing and benches, Brodhagen said.

“The goal is to keep plastic bags out of the environment,” she said. To achieve that, and avoid negative consequences of a ban, she said the Food Industry Alliance advocates more aggressively promoting reusing and recycling plastic bags, and offered to partner with the village to that end. “We have no vested interest in pushing bags — paper or plastic — out the door.”

“A plastic ban will drive the business to paper,” Brodhagen warned. A paper bag requires more energy to produce and recycle and weighs nine times as much as a plastic bag, and takes more trucks to deliver them, she said.

Tara Bono, a program coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s Farmingdale office, encouraged the board to broaden the ban to encompass paper bags. “Providing a comprehensive bag ban that includes both plastic and paper would ensure that the environmental harm is not switched from one resource to another,” she said.

“Consumers have grown to rely on plastic shopping bags because they are convenient and appear to be free, but disposable bags are not free,” Bono said. “Giving away disposable bags fails to account for the costs incurred at many levels. Retailers pay for the bags and then pass those costs onto consumers.”

On top of the cost to retailers, disposable bags are also costly in that they are produced with fossil fuels and generate expenses for cleaning up litter, she said.

Brodhagen said a plastic bag ban, in moving consumers to more expensive paper bags, will add to the cost of doing business and village retailers will be put at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses is neighboring municipalities.

Bonny Betancourt, a state affairs and grassroots manager for the American Chemistry Council, which represents the plastics industry, addressed the board while toting a plastic Walmart shopping bag. She pulled a bread bag, dry cleaning bag and other examples of recyclable plastic films from the shopping bag. She said that even the shrink-wrap on wintered boats can be recycled.

Plastic bag and plastic film recycling has gone up 31 percent since 2005, and 850 million pounds are recycled each year, Betancourt said. “The recyclers can’t get enough of that material. They’re clamoring for it.”

Village resident Walter Skretch spoke in favor of the bill. He said plastic bags are “a product that ultimately does our town and out earth little good.”

“This isn’t about plastic, this isn’t about paper,” SAVE committee chairman Roger Blaugh said. “It’s about finding satchels made of sustainable materials that can be used time and time again.”

McGann said she would vote in favor of this ban and wants to see paper bags banned as well eventually.

Mayor Mark Epley and trustees Bonnie Cannon and Richard Yastrzemski also favored the ban, citing environmental concerns.

“We have a very unique ecosystem,” Yastrzemski said, pointing out that the village includes both freshwater and saltwater. He said plastic bags show up in village waterways.

“At the end of the day, we’re responsible for being the stewards of the village of Southampton,” Cannon said, expecting the ban will protect village waters and wildlife.

Epley said the legislation is a statement: “We in the village of Southampton are going to make a difference.”

Robinson was alone in his opposition to the ban.

“Clearly plastic bags are a problem, clearly they are messing up the environment, and clearly we have to do something about it,” he said.

Robinson said there has to be a change in the consumer culture, but it should not be legislated. “I think we haven’t given the education a chance.”