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Source: The Journal News

Rye bans plastic bags at checkout, starting in May


Posted: December 9, 2011
Originally Published: December 8, 2011

Rye will become the first community in Westchester County to try to break the plastic-bag habit next year with a local law banning them from checkout counters.

Starting May 7, retailers will be barred from handing out the thin, two-handled bags that have become ubiquitous in stores. Dry-cleaning bags and larger, more durable plastic bags will still be allowed. The aim is to nudge people into the habitual use of reusable bags and reduce litter from the flimsy plastic.

Rye's city council unanimously approved the ordinance Wednesday. It is modeled on a 3-year-old policy in Westport, Conn.

Mamaroneck and White Plains are considering a similar ban amid a growing "bring your own bag" movement, said Jordan Christensen, Hudson Valley program coordinator for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"It just becomes a force of habit, and then conservation becomes a part of your everyday life," she said.

Rye's Sustainability Committee spent months promoting the measure and circulating petitions among merchants and residents. Advocates from Westport and Southampton, L.I., the first New York community to adopt the measure, also spoke up.

Roger Blaugh, a Southampton real estate broker and "not a tree-hugger," described the policy as a practical measure that helps the environment. During Wednesday night's meeting, he ceremoniously unfurled a dozen types of bags — paper, plastic and cloth — that are being used by Southampton merchants as alternatives to the one-size-fits-all plastic.

The council heard some criticism pointing to the challenge of packaging take-out foods and the logisitics of banning only certain kinds of bags. The ban does not apply to plastic sacks larger than 28 by 36 inches. It also allows thin bags for meat or produce. Property owners and merchants face a $150 penalty if they refuse.

Alicia Mozian, conservation director in Westport said the policy required almost no enforcement efforts.