Mamaroneck Village bans plastic bags as others weigh restrictions
On Wednesday, the Village of Mamaroneck became the second Westchester County community to ban retailers from handing out thin, throwaway plastic bags as other nearby municipalities watch, wait and consider joining the movement.
The new law outlaws bags at the checkout counter at the risk of a $150 fine. Mamaroneck Village officials approved the law in June 2012; Rye approved a similar law a month earlier.
Certain bags are exempt from the law: superthin dry cleaner garment bags, plastic produce bags and newspaper home delivery bags as well as heavier-gauge plastic bags used by restaurants.
Day one will be a time of transition, and "We're not going to start writing tickets," said Mayor Norm Rosenblum.
The ban has the support of the Mamaroneck Chamber of Commerce. "I won't say everybody is in favor but the majority are in favor," said past president and current board member Steve Josephson, who owns the Toy Box store on West Boston Post Road. Having ordered enough paper bags to last possibly two years, he said the only downside now is that "5,000 paper bags take up a lot of room and 5,000 plastic bags take no room."
At the moment, he is giving out bags only to customers who ask for one. Shoppers who bring in their own bags are given 10 percent off their entire purchase.
At the A&P food Store, the village's largest retailer, spokeswoman Marcy Connor said that "environmentally friendly bagging options" would be available "to provide a positive shopping experience for customers."
Larchmont might be next to join up, depending on the outcome of a public hearing to be scheduled in coming months, Mayor Anne McAndrews said. She views the new laws as "not a plastic bag ban but a reusable bag initiative" and is keeping an eye on Mamaroneck's progress.
"Every so often, it's better not to be first," she said. "We're learning from the experience of others."
Sara Goddard of the Rye Sustainability Committee, who spearheaded the ban in her town, said she has been approached by other municipalities who want to know more. Their chief concern is "fear and misunderstanding of the outcome," she said. "It really will not hurt the economy."
BAG INDUSTRY RESPONDS
The evolving trend has plastic bag makers on the defensive. Mark Daniels, chairman of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, an industry association, said paper bags are a "worse environmental option at checkout" because of the natural resources used to make them and that reusable bags can contain bacteria.
The Town of Mamaroneck is also considering a bag ban. "It's a function of trying to clean up litter," said Stephen Altieri, administrator for the Town of Mamaroneck.
Last fall, the town drafted its own version of the ban bill, which stalled as local officials switched gears to deal with the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. But, he added, "I know it's something that we want to give further consideration. Meanwhile, it'll give us some time to see how things work out in Mamaroneck."