Whether you see them as an annoyance that mar an otherwise pristine landscape by dangling from tree branches and lingering on shorelines or, alternatively, as a handy way to carry small purchases to and from the store, the plastic bag may soon become non grata in the Mamaroneck community.
Several communities across the country have already banned plastic bags: Southampton and East Hampton, NY; Los Angeles, San Francisco, Westport, CT and the first community in Westchester County, Rye, whose ban took effect on May 7.
The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees is and representatives from the Village of Larchmont Committee on the Environment in a potential ban based on whether or not Rye’s ban is successful.
And, with several board members who champion environmental causes, the Town of Mamaroneck is opening up a dialogue on the possibility of a ban there as well.
The law recently passed in Rye prevents any retail establishment from distributing bags—other than those defined as recyclable and/or reusable—to customers at the point of sale. Bags used for deli meats and to prevent spillage of food, dry cleaning, size 28” by 36” or larger meant to hold art or architectural drawings, newspaper delivery and Ziploc/kitchen garbage bags are all excluded from the ban. The penalty for each violation will be up to $150.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 12 percent of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were recycled in the U.S. in 2010. According to the Clean Air Council, Americans use approximately one billion plastic, non-degradable shopping bags per year.
Despite the momentum gained as more communities jump on board with the ban, one board member questioned whether the law—in its current form—would unfairly target small merchants.
“To me, the funniest thing here is the biggest offender is the clear garment bag…the cleaner who uses a plastic bag over the clothing,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, continuing, “The biggest offenders are not going to be touched…only the little guy who has a little shop or lingerie shop or something who happens to use a plastic bag.”
“It will train people to bring their own bags. Garment bags do not end up as litter in our community…people are not carrying around and using them…these bags do,” said Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson.
Despite her argument that single-use bags could be recycled for household purposes, Seligson was not convinced that others were of this same mindset, as evidenced by the accumulation of bags as detritus at local marinas.
“First of all, it’s a fallacy that those bags [thin plastic bags] can only be used once—I reuse them…either for garbage or to carry something out of my house,” said Wittner.
“The research has shown that most people only use them once…that’s why we do see them basically as litter,” said Seligson, continuing,“One of the bigger problems with the plastic bags that come out of the retail stores is that they are being shed immediately before they even get home.”
Some of the stores likely to be affected by the ban would be and
It still remains to be seen when and if the ban will be passed in communities other than Rye, with many town governments utilizing the success of the ban there as an example.
“I think it’s something that’s going to start passing in communities all around us—I think it’s a good idea for us,” said Seligson.
The Town Board encourages feedback on the topic of plastic bag bans and asked community members to contact the Town Supervisor with questions or comments at (914) 381-7805 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org