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First Week of Bag Ban a Mixed Bag for Southampton Businesses

One week after plastic bag ban went into effect, some Southampton businesses unaffected by ban, others report possible detriment.

A week after a in Southampton Village, business owners and managers expressed mixed reactions to the prohibition: some have not been effected at all, some said the effect has been so-so, while others say the ban could be bad for business.

Tony Valle, owner of , said that at first he thought it would be problematic, though he's seen in a short week that the measure hasn't had as much of an effect on his bottom line as he originally thought it would.

"At first I thought it would be problematic," he said, adding that his paper bags cost roughly twice the amount of the plastic "take-out" bags. "But the adjustment has actually been amazing. People are already bringing their own bags in with them."

Since it's "off-season" in the village at this time of year, Valle said that the high percentage of customers aware and willing to bring in their own bags may be higher than it would have been had the ban started in summer.

Several stores downtown reported that they have always used paper bags, so the ban has not affected them at all.

The ban applies to the thinner, smaller bags typical of pharmacies, grocery stores, and take-out food places. According to the text of the legislation banning the bags - which passed in late April - "these [non-biodegradable plastic] bags last hundreds of years in landfills and are a potential source of harmful chemicals when they do break down."

Plastic bags that are at least 2.25 millimeters thick are considered OK to hand out.

With the new regulation in effect, some local businesses were still adapting and will remain adapting, finding out the most cost effective way to contain clientele and keeping a steady bottom line.

Dennis Schmidt, owner of , said the cost of paying for paper bags instead of the cheaper plastic alternative "ultimately gets passed on" to the customer, it's just a matter of how and how much. While plastic bags cost him one to two cents, Schmidt said his paper bags have been running five ot six cents a piece.

Schmidt employees are currently playing with a rotation of different sizes of bags, charging customers a quarter for the largest bags which come with handles. The rest, for now, are free.

"We'll see what the costs end up being and keep trying until we find a way that works for us," he said.

Before the law went into effect, Schmidt said he gave out 1,000 re-usable cloth bags for free in the hopes that returning customers wouldn't need bags at all. He guessed 20 percent of his clientele is already using them, though he echoed Valle's sentiments in saying that those are mostly locals who are most aware of the ban.

Walking out of 's, Tamara Von Schenk - a London native who owns a home in Southampton - said the ban was news to her, though she didn't mind paying the extra five cents Waldbaum's is charging for paper bags, which they are subsequently donating to the Peconic Land Trust.

"But next time I'll bring my own," she said.

Mary Beth November 16, 2011 at 06:25 PM
RIght on, Roger. Thanks
Noah Carter November 16, 2011 at 07:34 PM
It's not paper vs. plastic. It's paper/plastic vs. reusable bags. Without question reusable bags are a better way to go. Now get out there and buy some stuff!
Deborah Klughers November 16, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Jerry-I have no super-powers to "impose my preference on others", I'm just making a comment and a statement to BYOB!! And yes, I really should do more research- as more research is always helpful to being an informed citizen. Perhaps you should do some research before you "impose" your preferences on others. You can read my comment below, based on research, if you'd like to be more informed...on the bigger issues surrounding your eco-friendly plastic bags..... peace
Deborah Klughers November 16, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Is this an issue to some because the plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing industry in America? Plastic bags are made from petrochemicals. More specifically, ethylene, which is the most produced organic compound on Earth, and is derived from natural gas and petroleum. These organic compounds are non-renewable resources! We have a LIMITED supply of petrochemicals and one would think that humanity would choose to use these dwindling natural resources to benefit the present and future inhabitants of our planet, rather than manufacture the ubiquitous single use plastic bag. Is anyone who is against plastic bag bans familiar with hydrofracking? How about oil shale extraction or offshore petroleum drilling and exploration? Paper bags are made from renewable resources. We grow trees specifically for this use, and in the end, paper that is not recycled, biodegrades. Plastic photodegrades, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces…over time, a lot of time. We started using plastic bags in the 1950’s and remnants of 50-year-old plastic have been found in oceanic phytoplankton today. Therefore, this stuff is here to stay-and it has worked its way well into the food chain. Of course, manufacturing any kind of bag (paper, plastic, bioplastic, cotton…..) affects the environment, but the best alternative is to BRING YOUR OWN BAG. The future will thank us.
Roger Blaugh November 17, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Well said, Deborah. You have a good command of the subject. Sharing your knowledge with others is as generous a gift as anyone can give back to our community. Many thanks!

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