The Scoop

East End Mayors and Supervisors Seek to Ban Plastic Bags by Earth Day

A coalition of village mayors and town supervisors on the East End have announced plans to institute a regional ban on single-use plastic shopping bags on March 22, 2015, which is Earth Day.

Participating municipalities would coordinate legislation so a ban would become effective across Riverhead and the South Fork simultaneously.

Municipal leaders from the towns of Southampton, East Hampton and Riverhead and the villages of Sag Harbor, Sagaponack, North Haven, West Hampton Dunes and Quogue have agreed to hold meetings on such a ban or introduce bag ban legislation within a month, according to a statement from the Southampton Town supervisor’s office. The public would be invited to provide feedback.

Southampton Village already has a plastic bag ban, which took effect in November 2011. In fact, it was the first municipality in New York State to institute a ban. East Hampton Village was a close second, adopting a ban in February 2012.

“The plastic bag ban has been very well received in Southampton Village,” the mayor, Mark Epley, said. “From an environmental perspective, it was simply the right thing to do. And residents have adjusted easily to bringing their own bags. It’s a small change in our everyday habits that is leading to real environmental benefits, and I strongly encourage other municipalities to join the effort.”

East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach said, “The program has been extremely successful and the village retailers have been supportive in this regard. We encourage our local government neighbors to join us in this endeavor.”

Other towns and village have previously weighed the issue, but never adopted legislation.

In Southampton Town, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pushed for a ban, but she could not get majority support from the town board. Instead, an awareness campaign to reduce the number of plastic bags used, and increase the rate of plastic bags recycled, was launched. The campaign was bolstered by Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays offering customers 5 cents back for every reusable bag they use at each transaction, but the rebate offer was short-lived. The make-up of the town board has changed since then, which could mean legislation will proceed this time around.

“I think everyone agrees that eliminating single-use plastic bags as a form of litter is an excellent goal, and working together to enact legislation on a regional basis provides an opportunity to achieve the greatest results and send a coordinated and non-partisan message about the measure’s environmental significance, while ensuring a level playing field for East End businesses,” Throne-Holst said in a statement.

The regional bag ban calls for each municipality to prohibit retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags, but paper bags would still be an option. The ultimate goal is to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.

Produce bags would not be subject to the ban. Plastic bags that are 2.25 mils thick or thicker would be defined as reusable bags.

The towns of Southold and Shelter Island did not join the pact as of yet, and some East End village have also not joined.

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