Task Force to Target Plastic Bags

Southampton Town Board establishes committee to increase bag recycling and decrease plastic bag use overall.

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday appointed a number of retailers and environmental advocacy groups to a new task force designed to encourage recycling plastic bags and favoring reusable bags — a consolation prize for advocates of an outright townwide ban on plastic shopping bags.

The task force is charged with leading a campaign titled, “A Greener Southampton 'The Solution is in the Bag,'” including educational outreach and working with retailers to develop incentive plans, marketing and promotions. The task force is also to track plastic bag use with a goal of reaching a 15 percent recycling rate in the first year and an overall reduction of the use of plastic bags.

A ban on single-use plastic shopping bags could not garner enough votes from Town Board members for a public hearing to be scheduled — a necessary step before a change to the town code can be voted on. The task force is designed to achieve the goal of keeping bags out of landfills, but to do it without the heavy hand of government issuing mandates.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi, R-Speonk, and Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, R-Water Mill, put forward the resolution establishing the task force. Before it was unanimously adopted, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, successfully requested an amendment to the resolution to explicitly state that the task force’s goals for 2012 include less plastic bags being used in town.

“My feeling is that the ultimate goal should be to eliminate, completely, the single use plastic bags that really have no real use,” Fleming said.

Fleming is in favor of a ban, but said, in lieu of that, she would vote for the task force. “Since there isn’t a majority of the board supportive of a full ban, I applaud the efforts to move this forward,” she said.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I-Noyac, also favors a ban, and she questioned how the task force would measure recycling rates without an independent third-party observer. She said recycling efforts are inadequate because, while recycling reduces the amount of plastic in landfills, plastic bags still result in pollution when they are manufactured, shipped to stores, and shipped to overseas recycling plants.

Nuzzi was optimistic about the task force. “This is a really positive step, in which we involved diverse groups, people of different backgrounds and opinions,” he said.

He noted that local schools will be participating in a challenge over the next month and a half to find which one can collect the most used plastic bags. The winner will receive a trex bench — a product manufactured with recycled plastic bags.

Southampton Village of its own in April 2011 and it , making the village the first municipality in New York State to exercise such a ban.

Roger Blaugh, the co-chair of Southampton Village’s environmental advisory committee, Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, was doubtful that the task force would have any substantial effect.

“Past attempts to educate the public or re-educate the public, while noble, have failed in every instance,” Blaugh said Friday, citing other towns that have made similar efforts.

The task force includes:

• Food Industry Alliance

• Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association
• Southampton Business Alliance

• Sustainable Southampton Green Committee
• Town Council Office
• Town’s Waste Management Division
• Town’s Office of Energy & Sustainability

Ralebird March 20, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Be careful what you wish for, Wendy. It's my understanding a lot of those bags are used to empty out cats' litter boxes and to pick up after dogs. Maybe you don't really want "all" of them brought back to the supermarket after all.
Ralebird March 20, 2012 at 04:29 AM
How many paper bags (at a taxpayer expense of a nickel apiece) were added to the refuse stream? Those bags, which take up forty times as much landfill space as plastic bags, will decompose quite a bit slower than newspapers - which have been found to still be readable after forty years in the dump.
Diane Sadowski March 20, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Simply said! And simply sad that the Town did not just go with a ban. And a ban should have nothing to do with this being a resort area.-the environment is the environment! and pollution is polution!
Diane March 25, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Check out bagitmovie.com and see if you can watch the whole movie. It was aired on PLUM tv a few weeks ago. What an eye-opener about plastics in our environment and how they will affect us (yes, we humans are part of the environment!) forever. I was against the ban b/c I thought they can just be recycled, but people just don't do it and the recycling program is not good enough. I also hope the governments take on the role of recycling and re-use more thoroughly, rather than just banning product. When recycling is done better, the public may become more educated about these issues.
Diane March 25, 2012 at 06:49 PM
cited in bagit movie.... NYC fills up the size of Yankee Stadium 3x's EACH DAY with garbage. Listen up and practice 3 words America: REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE!! Plastic products should not be used for single use/throw-away purposes! ... it's an oxymoron!


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