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Town Moves Toward Banning Plastic Bags

King Kullen worried about skyrocketing shipping costs.

has taken another stride in the footsteps of and Southampton villages toward — but one of Long Island’s grocery giants isn’t too happy about it.

Tom Cullen, the vice president of government, industry and public relations at the Bethpage-based family-owned King Kullen Grocery Company, said he will have to study the proposed legislation, which calls for a six-month educational campaign before forbidding single-use plastic checkout bags. Plastic produce bags would still be allowed.

“I’m not in favor of it,” Cullen said, citing cost concerns. King Kullen Grocery Company has three stores in Southampton Town: King Kullens in and , and in Hampton Bays.

The town board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to schedule a public hearing on the bag ban proposal.  If the vote passes, the first public hearing would be held Dec. 22 at 10 a.m.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that she is strongly in support of the law, and even put herself on a plastic bag austerity program the past few months to see how it works. The test went fine, she said.

“You just get used to it,” she said during the town board work session Friday afternoon.

Throne-Holst sees banning bags as connected to helping protect the local environment and economy. The town may arrange for local businesses to sponsor giving out free reusable bags to get shoppers started.

Shipping costs are one of Cullen’s main issues with the law. It takes three truckloads of paper bags to replace one truckload of plastic ones, Cullen said. That means the cost for paper is more than three times that of plastic, he said.

Cullen said that he did support an educational outreach proposal discussed about . When questioned about the idea during the work session by Sheryl Heather, the new executive director of the Southampton Business Alliance, Throne-Holst said that the project garnered no interest from the business community. Throne-Holst added that an educational program did not preclude the need for legislation.

“Unless there’s a ticking deadline, there’s no interest,” she said.

Education alone resulted in only a 12-percent drop in plastic bag use in Phoenix, Ariz., according to a presentation by Tip Brolin, the chairman of the town's Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee. The municipality considered the 12-percent figure “very successful,” according to his PowerPoint presentation.

Sustainable Southampton canvassed local retailers for their opinions on the project. Committee members interviewed a total of 56 retailers, and of the 47 who responded 81 percent supported the legislation, he said.

When Southampton Village was considering its ban, had the same reaction that King Kullen is having now to the town's proposal, said Mackie Finnerty, a member of the Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, the village's equivalent to Sustainable Southampton. She added that has also implemented a fee of 25 cents per paper bag to help people remember their reusable bags.

Mary Beth December 12, 2011 at 04:23 PM
“I’m not in favor of it,” Cullen said "too bad," I said
Roger Blaugh December 12, 2011 at 08:53 PM
Tom could do a little homework before condemning a program that's been a huge success aroud the world where reusable shopping bags have been used for decades. Success story: Retailers in Westport, CT, reported to Southampton Village's SAVE Committee that 80% of retail shoppers brought their own bags to the store by the end of the first year alone. The number increased steadily thereafter to nearly 95%. And here’s why the program works for King Kullen: Tom said that it takes three trucks to deliver the same number of paper bags to Southampton as it takes to deliver the same number of plastic bags. Under the Southampton BYOBag program, 80% fewer bags will be required in the first year alone. That means that it will only take 60% of a single truck to deliver the paper bags that Southampton will need. It stands to reason, that King Kullen will save money on bag purchases, trucking costs and the labor it takes to place these bags in their stores, just like the Westport retailers reported. Add to that the fact that King Kullen will also be selling reusable shopping bags to their customers and King Kullen will likely stand to profit. That sounds to me like a win-win for The King. Here’s another point: Plastic bags are made from America’s dwindling domestic oil and gas reserves. Paper bags are made from recycled paper under this program. And remember, this is about bringing your own bag to the store…it’s not about “paper verses plastic”.
Tip Brolin December 12, 2011 at 09:56 PM
I am quoted above, but the reporter left out the punch line. 95-99% of plastic bags are not recycled. Instead they end up in our environment. When I noted the "12%" drop in Phoenix, it was to show that education campaigns result in a very small increase in what is already a small number of bags that are recycled. If the bags are banned, the drop is 100%.

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