Rye plastic bag ban begins
GalleriesRye: No more plastic
Starting Monday, "byob" will mean "bring your own bag" in Rye as the city becomes the first Westchester community to outlaw throwaway plastic bags. And neighboring locales are weighing whether to join the plastic-free movement.
"It's a very simple solution to a huge environmental problem," said Sara Goddard of the Rye Sustainability Committee, which pushed for the law.
The measure, which has the support of the Rye Chamber of Commerce, carries a $150 fine for retailers caught using what's known in the industry as a "single-use plastic bag" or "T-shirt bag." Heavy-duty plastic bags are still legal.
"Obviously, we would love to eliminate all single-use plastic and paper bags, but our committee knew that if we broached the idea of eliminating total usage, the ordinance would not pass," Goddard said.
Chamber president Sally Wright chimed in: "It's all about trying to change personal habits and doing the right thing."
Last month, CVS began stocking brown paper bags at its Boston Post Road store because "we couldn't just flip the switch on May 7," said company spokesman Mike DeAngelis. The store is also promoting its ExtraCare Green Tag bag program that costs 99 cents to join and gives customers 25 cents back every time they bring in their own resuable bag.
Larchmont is among several neighboring communities eyeing a similiar law. Village trustee Marlene Kolbert said she plans to propose a plastic bag ban this year. "We're hoping the movement will spread across the entire Sound Shore," she said. "Obviously, the aim is to get everyone on board."
At a recent clean-up of the village's Sheldrake reservoir, "the dominant thing that came out of the water was bottles, bags and plastics of all types," she noted.
"We want to make this ban happen along the Long Island Sound communities," said Monica Barach of the Committee for the Environment in the village of Mamaroneck, which she said will vote on the issue this month.
Pelham Manor resident Sydney MacInnis, 50, has requested public hearings in both her village and nearby Pelham, which is expected to discuss the issue at a 7:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday. Goddard, who is meeting with the various villages, said they are all working from a law modeled after the 2008 anti-plastic bag ordinance passed in Westport, Conn. It was also the template for similar laws that went into affect last November in Southampton and last March in East Hampton, both on Long Island.
While measuring the impact of the plastic bag ban is difficult, it's real purpose is to serve as a "feel-good law" that builds environmental awareness, said Roger Blaugh, co-chairman for the Southhampton Village Environmental Advisory Committee.
Not everyone, however, supports the anti-plastic push.
Switching to paper bags at supermarkets is tough on both the stores and customers, said Pat Brodhagen, a spokeswoman for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, a supermarket industry association. Paper bags are three times more expensive for retailers to purchase, and environmentally costly to both produce and recycle.
"Banning a bag doesn't eliminate the plastic litter problem for several reasons," she said, especially because dry cleaner garment bags are still legal.
Milton Schoolteacher Carol Havlin, 64, of Bedford doesn't see paper bags as a solution either. Not to mention that the ban will make shopping in Rye "a pain." But since she does own a reusable tote bag, she said, "I guess I'll have to carry it when I'm in Rye."
Sylvia Spitalnick, 58, of Larchmont said she didn't know about the Rye ban, as she stepped out of the village's Le Pain Quotidien recently carrying a plastic bag containing lunch leftovers. Nonetheless, she said she'll bring her own reusable bag next time. "I think it's a great idea."