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May 17, 2011 5:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Will Consider Plastic Bag Ban

May 17, 2011 6:39 PM

They litter the streets, get trapped in trees and are sometimes found floating in the water. And it is for those reasons that some environmentally minded Southampton Town residents are now pushing for a law that would ban the use of plastic bags at checkouts in businesses throughout the municipality.

Inspired in part by Southampton Village’s recent landmark legislation to do just that, town officials are currently drafting nearly identical legislation that would ban the use of plastic bags, officials said this week. Although a date has not yet been scheduled, the draft law will be subject of a Town Board work session in coming weeks.

The law is needed, explained Tip Brolin, the chairman of the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee, to combat the pollution caused by discarded plastic bags. Its goal, he said, is less about banning plastic bags and more about getting people in the habit of carrying around their own reusable bags to reduce the clutter around town.

“The problem is that the bags get away from you,” Mr. Brolin said in an interview last weekend. “Either they’re put in landfills, where they’re not recycled and they last essentially forever, or you use them on the beach and you see them in hedges.”

The town’s plastic bag legislation would essentially mirror Southampton Village’s law, said both Mr. Brolin and Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. That law, enacted just last month, allows for a six-month phase-out period before the ban kicks in. Once that expires, businesses, retailers and restaurants are no longer permitted to offer plastic bags to their customers at checkout.

The village legislation does not prohibit the use of plastic produce bags inside stores, or plastic bags larger than 28 inches by 36 inches. The town legislation would follow the same rules, Mr. Brolin said. In the village, the ban is limited to retail stores, sidewalk sales, farmers markets, flea markets and restaurants. It does not include yard sales, tag sales or other sales at homes or by nonprofit organizations. Retailers are also required to provide only reusable bags made of cloth or another fabric, durable plastic at least 2.25 millimeters thick, or recyclable paper bags at checkout.

A fan of reusable bags, Ms. Throne-Holst said she carries two tennis ball-sized, collapsible ones around with her at all times. “I’ve gotten so in the habit, I take them with me wherever I go,” she said.

For Ms. Throne-Holst, she views a ban on plastic bags as doable—it’ll just come down to breaking old habits, she said. She said she can envision the day when grabbing one’s reusable bag will be like remembering to take one’s keys or wallet—just another item on an individual’s mental checklist—before heading out the door each morning.

“It’s just a great and very doable thing that we can do as a community to improve our sustainability and to decrease the waste that goes into our landfills,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said this week that she also supported the concept of a plastic bag ban. She said such bans are already in place in other areas, including California and Europe. She also believes that it is a matter of getting in the habit of carrying your own bag around. “It’s certainly a move in the right direction,” she said of the proposed legislation.

But other Town Board members held off on offering their opinions this week, stating that they must first research the issue.

“I’m interested in hearing the positives about it, and also understanding a little more about how it’s worked in different communities,” said Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi. He added that he is waiting to get more information on the measure after hearing a presentation at the upcoming work session.

Additionally, Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said she hasn’t had the opportunity to review the law yet and held off on commenting until the work session.

Town Councilman Jim Malone also declined to comment through a statement issued by Legislative Aide Kristen Tuffy on Tuesday.

“I think it would be premature for me to comment on any initiatives being contemplated with regard to plastic bag legislation,” Mr. Malone stated. He added that he prefers “incentives over mandates, particularly during the most difficult of economic times we have had to endure in modern history.”

Mr. Malone’s concerns were echoed by Ann LaWall, the executive director of the Southampton Business Alliance. The alliance, whose members include more than 200 businesses in town, has been told of the proposed ban. Although the alliance does not have a collective opinion on the measure yet, Ms. LaWall said she would personally prefer that the Town Board first advance a voluntary plastic bag ban for a specific period, such as one year, and then evaluate its success—instead of imposing a mandate outright.

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Excellent idea! I'm tired of picking them out of roadside bushes, noticing them waving like flags from branches high above and having them tumble down streets near supermarkets after being blown out of shopping carts. They are also mistaken for jellyfish when they get into our waters by turtles which eat them and then die when the bags clog their intestines.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on May 18, 11 1:29 PM
Before all of the "big government" wingnuts start to b and moan about overreach, let me say Great Idea! Follow the village lead and get this done. A no-brainer
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 19, 11 10:07 AM
For good measure, send all the styrofoam packing peanuts back from whence they came too.

If everyone owned their own hemp shopping bags, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Oh, I almost forgot, Big Oil made it illegal as a cash crop in 1937...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 19, 11 6:57 PM
Oh come on, like hemp is the only enviornmentally friendly material to make bags out of?

Besides, hemp is legally grown and sold in the US.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on May 20, 11 7:36 PM
Please, name another one.

And I'll shoot you down before you say cotton, because of pesticides, and polymers are made from crude oil.
May 21, 11 4:38 PM appended by Mr. Z
And, jute is not durable.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 21, 11 4:38 PM
... great idea, these things are all over the road, but what am I gonna use to bring my lunch to work?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on May 20, 11 10:56 AM
Get back in your car and have lunch at home? Its the European thing to do...oh lets all become Europeans again...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 21, 11 10:39 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By GXT, Sudbury on Nov 4, 11 11:15 AM