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Apr 20, 2011 10:50 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village To Bid Adieu To Plastic Bags

Apr 20, 2011 11:38 AM

The ubiquitous plastic shopping bag is marked for banishment from Southampton Village checkout counters.

Village Mayor Mark Epley said last Thursday, April 14, that he was ready to pass the “statement” legislation that night banning the bags from village stores, following the longest and liveliest public hearing before the Village Board in more than a year. Proponents and opponents alike turned out—both with props in tow—in attempts to sway the board.

Ultimately, the vote was postponed until Tuesday, April 26, because of a last-minute semantic change—replacing “and” with an “or” in the legislation’s definition of a recyclable paper bag. After the substitution, such a bag should display the words “reusable” or “recyclable” since bags used for storing take-out food, for example, could not be expected to be reused.

Mr. Epley and village trustees Richard Yastrzemski, Nancy McGann and Bonnie Cannon voiced their support for the legislation, while Trustee Paul Robinson was opposed, setting the stage for potentially the first non-unanimous vote by the single-party board in at least a year.

The legislation came about after a strong push by Southampton Advocates for the Environment, also known as SAVE, some of whose members traveled to Westport, Connecticut, another affluent waterfront community where such a ban is in place. Members previously reported positive findings.

If adopted, the ban would apply solely to retail checkout bags. It would not include plastic produce bags or plastic bags larger than 28 inches by 36 inches. The legislation is also 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 would have to provide only reusable bags made of cloth or another fabric, durable plastic that is at least 2.25 millimeters thick, or recyclable paper bags at checkout. The ban would take effect six months after it is adopted into village code.

At last Thursday’s public hearing, SAVE and other environmental advocates lamented the non-biodegradability of the plastic bags and the hazards they present to the local waters and wildlife, as well as the aesthetic blemishes they have become to the landscape, fluttering from treetops and endangering marine life, for example.

On the flip side, representatives from the plastics and food industry and businesspeople claimed that banning plastic bags is not the solution, and urged further education to promote recycling efforts, instead. They also touted the use of recycling bins for plastic bags offered at supermarkets.

“I don’t think you’ve ever seen a bag like this hanging from a tree or stuck in the bottom of your shrubs,” said Roger Blaugh, a SAVE member, as he tossed a reusable canvas tote to the floor, where it landed with a light thud.

Mr. Blaugh, who said he finds plastic bags in the hedge of his front yard on Post Crossing every week, arranged an assortment of canvas bags on a table before the board as he expounded on how mandatory and voluntary programs have failed. He equated such a ban to the adoption of seat belt laws to explain why legislation is needed. He urged the board to take its role as environmental stewards seriously and adopt the ban.

“This isn’t about plastic. It’s not about paper,” he said. “It’s about finding satchels made from sustainable materials that can be used time and again.”

“Our ultimate goal is not to support those industries,” said village resident Walter Skretch. “Our ultimate goal is to minimize and eventually eliminate a product that really does our town and, ultimately, our earth very little good.”

Tara Bono, program coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the village would be the first municipality in the state to adopt such a ban. Ms. Bono propped up large photos of a seagull tugging at a plastic bag and a seal with shredded plastic dangling from its mouth. “Experts now say there is more plastic in our oceans than plankton,” she said, adding that tourism and fishing communities on the East End could be devastated by continued, unchecked use of plastics.

Meanwhile, Jose Collazo, the store manager of Waldbaum’s on Jagger Lane, the village’s only supermarket, said banning the bags is not the answer, but that education is. He said he empties recycling bins for plastic bags at his store twice a day, and customers can earn credits for reusing bags. The mayor and Ms. McGann later countered that they had never heard of such bins at his store.

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How about we use some of what little farmland is left to grow hemp? It easily has the potential to replace petroluem derived plastics, trees, and cotton as a raw material. It's the strongest natural fiber known, next to spider silk, which is not nearly as viable.

Cash crop, easily renewable, and grows like a weed.

Oh, wait. It IS one...
Apr 25, 11 4:24 PM appended by Mr. Z
Also, just for reference, hemp seed millet once saved the Chinese from starvation. It is probably the healthiest thing on the planet you could eat, and NO, it will not get you "stoned".
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 25, 11 4:24 PM
yes millet was a good source of fiber too.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 25, 11 4:31 PM
It's amazing how unhealthy we've become as a society, the further we have gone the way of the "artificial".

I'll take my dinner raw, and unprocessed. Can't say the same for the gulls these days, though. Plastic is pretty processed.

While education is all well and good, eliminating the use of petrol plastics (yes folks, plastics come from CRUDE OIL) would be one of the best things we could do for ourselves as a society.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 25, 11 4:40 PM
If you still prefer to use plastic bags, you can buy them on line or at certain stores. That way you will be able to use them for your grocery's and then as trash liners or recycle them or use them for do poop picker uppers.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 26, 11 9:40 AM