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Village Enacts Plastic Bag Ban

Despite industry opposition, Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. says legislation is first step in the right direction.

In six months, it will be illegal for grocery stores and other retailers in East Hampton Village to provide customers with plastic shopping bags.

On Tuesday, the board of trustees enacted legislation that bans the use of such bags, starting at the end of December, after the phase-in period.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach, Jr., who after Southampton Village in New York to prohibit plastic bags, and the two other present board members were not persuaded by plastic and grocery store industry representatives who spoke out against the proposal during the .

"We respect both sides of the issue," Rickenbach said. "We feel it's the right step to take" for the environment, he said. "As some say, sometimes, it takes a village."

Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack agreed. "I hope the town will consider doing the same thing."

Jeremy Samuelson, an advocate with the Group for the East End, said the village could lead by example for neighboring communities.

"As an oceanfront community, East Hampton Village has an inter-dependent, economic, as well as spiritual relationship with the ocean and broader natural resources," Samuelson said during the public hearing.

A handful of East Hampton-area residents turned out in support of the proposal, including East Hampton Town Trustee candidates Debbie Klughers and Nanci E. LaGarenne. Sue Avedon called the legislation "a no brainer."

Samuelson sited statistics from the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration that one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals die from ocean debris around the world, not to mention "lingering and permanent effects" of the petroleum based toxic chemicals" from plastic litter, he said.

Stephen Rosario, an American Chemistry Council senior director, told the board his industry prefers educating the public on the alternatives to single-use grocery bags, not a full-fledged ban of them.

Rosario told the board many forget about what he called benefits of plastics. "We do use less energy, we do use less green house gases, we use less water in production," he said. Instead, people always focus on the problem with disposal and recycling.

Patricia Brodhagen, vice president of the Food Industry Alliance of New York, which represents grocery stores within the village, said the ban would pose logistical problems for the stores, such as where to store larger paper bags.

John Quackenbush, the district manager with Waldbaums, the only grocery store in the village boundary, said he was afraid that his store would be disadvantaged by not being allowed to provide plastic bags to customers.

"As an operator, I'd love to get rid of all bags," he said to applause from the audience. "But not everybody's got a car inthe parking lot and can bring their bags too," he said.

The cost to buy paper bags, which are more expensive than plastic bags, would be a cost that would be trickle down to the consumer, according to both Brodhagen and Quackenbush.

Yet, Dieter von Lehsten of the Green Committee of Southampton told the board, "What we don't want to do is encourage paper use," he said. "We don't want any bags."

The ban does require that if stores offer paper bags to customers they be of a high-recyclable grade.

Joe Citizen February 10, 2012 at 02:13 PM
While I am not opposed to the plastic bag ban, I have witnessed a problem since it began the other day. Walbaums is charging for each paper bag that you use. In and of itself that is not a huge issue, however, I witnessed a woman who had to pay with the card which was formerly known as food stamps. That woman was still going to be charged for every paper bag that she needed. She left with a cart of groceries and not a single bag, telling her daughter that they will just have to carry them one at a time. Come on Walbaums, step up and be human!
Gail Simons February 10, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Bud, you're not too bright are you? It takes 450 -1000 years for plastic bags to break down. Plastic in the marine environment never fully degrades. The end product of the break down, "plastic dust," is ingested by filter feeding marine animals. The dust and the bio-toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) that the plastic dust accumulates, are passed up the food chain to fish and humans. Anyone (company) making plastic bags is in the business of making profit regardless of the polluting consequences of their products. There are plenty of alternatives to plastic when making bags. It's not possible to make laptops, cars or phones out of paper, straw or hemp. But it's certainly possible to make bags with those and other materials. There's simply no social or environmental justification for making plastic bags these days. Quote from Rolling Stone mag: American shoppers use an estimated 102 billion plastic shopping bags each year — more than 500 per consumer. Named by Guinness World Records as "the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world," the ultrathin bags have become a leading source of pollution worldwide. They litter the world's beaches, clog city sewers, contribute to floods in developing countries and fuel a massive flow of plastic waste that is killing wildlife from sea turtles to camels. "The plastic bag has come to represent the collective sins of the age of plastic," says Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.
Deborah Klughers February 10, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said:"Marine litter is symptomatic of a wider malaise: namely the wasteful use and persistent poor management of natural resources. The plastic bags, bottles and other debris piling up in the oceans and seas could be dramatically reduced by improved waste reduction, waste management and recycling initiatives. Some of the litter, like thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere-there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere. " @Joe- that is really sad that they couldnt give a few bags to the woman using foodstamps-and even sadder that she didnt have spare change for a few paper bags. Maybe they need a "food stamps exemption" rule..... BYOB
KENNETH J BRABANT JR February 12, 2012 at 09:54 PM
CAN SOMEONE THEN GIVE ME THE MONEY THAT THEY ARE CHARGING FOR THE PAPER BAGS. IT IS NOW COSTING ME MORE FOR GROCERIES.
MARTIN DREW February 13, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Hey Kids ... Bring the all radical personal shopping cart ; it folds ; has four wheels and is about 1-1/2 ' deep x 2'wide x 3 .5' tall ; holds plenty for a "typical shopping visit" It is the bag free way! BYOCart .. And yes Buy 10 of those .99 cent bags .. They will last a lifetime and not destroy something other than some egos... Lol be well all ; shop HO!

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