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Jul 29, 2011 5:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Village Bans Plastic Bags

Aug 2, 2011 4:16 PM

The East Hampton Village Board on Friday voted to prohibit stores from providing disposable plastic bags to their customers.

Citing the role of plastic bags in pollution, litter, wildlife deaths, and clogged storm drains, the law also encourages merchants to make reusable bags available for sale.

To give retail establishments time to use up the plastic bags they already have, and to switch to a new way of packing their merchandise, the law will not go into effect for six months, or late January.

“We feel this is the right thing to do,” said East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. following a public hearing at which, as he put it, both the “pluses and minuses” of the ban were aired, with some speakers snapping open or unfolding reusable cloth or plastic bags as props.

Among them was Deborah Klughers, an East Hampton resident and “citizen of the planet,” she said. (She is also a candidate for East Hampton Town Trustee.) Ms. Klughers said Americans use 300 to 700 disposable plastic bags per year, each of them for an average of only 20 minutes. Fifty-year-old plastic has been found in plankton, she said.

Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate for the Group for East End, was among at least two who said that plastic bags photodegrade, meaning that they break down in sunlight and enter the bottom of the food chain as their pieces get smaller and then work their way back up the food chain. He called disposable bags an “anachronistic vestige” of the 20th century.

Nancy LaGarenne of East Hampton said she did not want to “tell my granddaughter that she can’t eat the fish because the fish are all poisoned.”

“I think it’s great,” Sue Avedon said of the ban, adding that she hoped it would help her remember to take bags into the supermarket from her car. “It’s a no-brainer. Nothing good comes from plastic bags.”

“Our concern is that a ban won’t change human behavior,” said Pat Brodhagen of the Food Industry Alliance. Ms. Brodhagen said paper bags are three times as expensive as plastic ones, and that grocers will have no choice but to pass that expense on to the consumer. “Food retailers historically make a penny on the dollar,” she said. “There’s no wiggle room.”

Stephen Rosario of the American Chemistry Council said there are nine plastic bag companies “here on Long Island” and that “we are your neighbors.”

Twenty-seven years after wearing a seat belt became the law, drivers need to be reminded to buckle up, he said, also citing what he called only 75 to 76 percent compliance with the bottle return law—arguments that subsequent speakers said argued for a bag ban, not against one.

“I don’t have a place to store that many paper bags,” said John Quakenbush, the Waldbaum’s district manager, adding that some customers, particularly those without cars, find it much easier to carry groceries in plastic bags. “Tax the bags in the store or eliminate them altogether,” he suggested.

The ban will not apply to produce bags, to plastic bags 28 inches by 36 inches or larger, or to durable plastic bags at least 2.25 mils thick. It pertains to retail stores, farmers markets, restaurants, and flea markets, but not yard sales and sales by nonprofit organizations.

According to the speakers at Friday’s hearing, disposable plastic bags have already been banned in Australia and Italy.“Sometimes it takes a village,” Mayor Rickenbach said as the Village Board approved the ban. The mayor had said earlier this year that he was first inspired to propose it after seeing plastic bags littering the Nature Trail.

Barbara Borsack, a Village Board member, said on Friday that she hoped that East Hampton Town would follow suit with its own ban. In April, Southampton Village became the first local municipality to do so; East Hampton Village would be second, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said at Friday’s hearing. Southampton Town, meanwhile, is considering a similar ban.

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Considering our close proximity to such sensitive ecosystems, this is long overdue. Good job EHV! I can't wait to go to the beach and NOT see so many plastic bags blowing into the water like tumble weeds, or floating around town pond with the ducks and swans. If you don't like it, blame the lazy many who weren't responsible enough to use something as simple as a freakin' shopping bag properly in the first place.
By YesYesBub (58), East Hampton on Jul 30, 11 7:57 AM
Yea...Guns don't kill people... So why do away with the plastic bag? I doubt that you only see plastic bags at the beach. I see more plastic bottles and balloons than plastic bottles. Does your town wait for the garbage cans to overflow before they are emptied, (when there is one)? Do people place their garbage next to the filled garbage can,( instead of disposing of it at home)?Do animals scrounge for food from these garbage cans, and do they put it back when they are finished?) Banning the bags ...more
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Jul 30, 11 8:52 AM
You don't see many bags because the wind usually picks them up and rolls them into either the middle of the dunes or the ocean, just like the mylar balloons commonly found during beach clean ups. Will this solve the litter problem entirely? No, but it's a good start. I combat it by bringing a 30 gallon garbage can with us on beach days for others around us to use, and if people are so gun-ho about calling the cops on someone walking a dog before six pm (since, God Forbid it urinates on some sand), ...more
By YesYesBub (58), East Hampton on Jul 30, 11 12:00 PM
Use bags made from recyclable materials! I keep 4 of them in my car and use them all the time -- in the food stores, hardware stores, drug stores ... it's definitely the way to go! And do away with the gallon bags used for fruits and vegetables! What is the purpose of that! C'mon - you don't need them either!

When I go walking around town, I carry a plastic bag (the few I might have) and use it to collect bottles and cans that I find on the way. That's another thing that makes me furious: ...more
By TTTTrina (13), East Hampton on Jul 30, 11 10:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
What am i going to use to line my small garbage can in the bathroom with. I guess i can go to store and buy some small garbage bags. :(
By ranger (54), springs on Jul 30, 11 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mayor Rickenbach and the Village Trustees made the right decision. Entire nations have banned the bags! More than 25% of people live in areas with bag bans or fees, and this is a growing number. East Hampton Village will soon become part of this global trend-a trend that will lead us toward a sustainable future.
Thanks, Mayor!
By dklughers (46), east Hampton on Jul 31, 11 1:42 AM
wow we can use one less village employee now no more trash laying around
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Jul 31, 11 9:10 AM
I was at a market in Noyac that temporarily used biodegradable plastic bags, whether or not it was from a promotional company or not I thought it was a great idea. Why they stopped I don't know but would East Hampton Town allow those? Or are they going to make us spend our own money to buy cloth bags to shop with?
By Cali (4), Sag Harbor on Jul 31, 11 9:46 AM
Interesting to see which paper company gets the recommendation for shops and the town bag deal.
By Ibill (47), remsenburg on Aug 3, 11 11:55 AM