Jul 29, 2014

Village Enacts Plastic Bag Ban

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

Village Enacts Plastic Bag Ban

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.

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