Task Force to Target Plastic Bags

Southampton Town Board establishes committee to increase bag recycling and decrease plastic bag use overall.

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday appointed a number of retailers and environmental advocacy groups to a new task force designed to encourage recycling plastic bags and favoring reusable bags — a consolation prize for advocates of an outright townwide ban on plastic shopping bags.

The task force is charged with leading a campaign titled, “A Greener Southampton 'The Solution is in the Bag,'” including educational outreach and working with retailers to develop incentive plans, marketing and promotions. The task force is also to track plastic bag use with a goal of reaching a 15 percent recycling rate in the first year and an overall reduction of the use of plastic bags.

A ban on single-use plastic shopping bags could not garner enough votes from Town Board members for a public hearing to be scheduled — a necessary step before a change to the town code can be voted on. The task force is designed to achieve the goal of keeping bags out of landfills, but to do it without the heavy hand of government issuing mandates.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi, R-Speonk, and Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, R-Water Mill, put forward the resolution establishing the task force. Before it was unanimously adopted, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, successfully requested an amendment to the resolution to explicitly state that the task force’s goals for 2012 include less plastic bags being used in town.

“My feeling is that the ultimate goal should be to eliminate, completely, the single use plastic bags that really have no real use,” Fleming said.

Fleming is in favor of a ban, but said, in lieu of that, she would vote for the task force. “Since there isn’t a majority of the board supportive of a full ban, I applaud the efforts to move this forward,” she said.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I-Noyac, also favors a ban, and she questioned how the task force would measure recycling rates without an independent third-party observer. She said recycling efforts are inadequate because, while recycling reduces the amount of plastic in landfills, plastic bags still result in pollution when they are manufactured, shipped to stores, and shipped to overseas recycling plants.

Nuzzi was optimistic about the task force. “This is a really positive step, in which we involved diverse groups, people of different backgrounds and opinions,” he said.

He noted that local schools will be participating in a challenge over the next month and a half to find which one can collect the most used plastic bags. The winner will receive a trex bench — a product manufactured with recycled plastic bags.

Southampton Village of its own in April 2011 and it , making the village the first municipality in New York State to exercise such a ban.

Roger Blaugh, the co-chair of Southampton Village’s environmental advisory committee, Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, was doubtful that the task force would have any substantial effect.

“Past attempts to educate the public or re-educate the public, while noble, have failed in every instance,” Blaugh said Friday, citing other towns that have made similar efforts.

The task force includes:

• Food Industry Alliance

• Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association
• Southampton Business Alliance

• Sustainable Southampton Green Committee
• Town Council Office
• Town’s Waste Management Division
• Town’s Office of Energy & Sustainability

wendy March 19, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Well If everyone, visitors and Locals, would just bring the bags back after they shop when they return to shop again we wouldn't have this so called"TASK FORCE" I think the towns should worry about real things like Crime, illegals,drugs, etc. etc. Please put our Tax dollars to better use, and everyone I mean everyone bring back all those plastic bags on the next trip to the Store. Tourists should also!!!!! Just do the right thing everyone so our tax dollars would be used in the proper way!!!!
Faustina March 19, 2012 at 02:21 PM
What about a task force to stop the influx of proposed mega - supermarkets.? Four to date. That's a sure fire way to cut back on bags and alot of other debris. I agree with Wendy. This is more concentration on the superficia by a superficial Town Board. Get to work on real issues and stop wasting tax payer $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$..
George Lynch March 19, 2012 at 04:40 PM
If the task force makes any real progress on this, I'll be delighted, but also very surprised. Sad to say, Roger Blaugh is probably right given the dismal record of such initiatives. Bridget Fleming's amendment is good, but without a full legal ban, which the Republican and Conservative faction killed, this thing likely won't go anywhere. Those who say this is a distraction from more important issues are quite wrong, because this is a measure to save our environment from visual and biological pollution. Remember, this is Southampton, one of the premier resorts in the world -- The Environment Is The Economy & The Economy Is The Environment.
Roger Blaugh March 19, 2012 at 07:32 PM
The Town Board's program is purposeful. They're conservative by nature and this is the conservative approach. I'm hoping that their "one step forward" won't result in going "two steps back" as often happens when a "study" is embarked upon by the non-science community. As Mr. Lynch pointed out above, unless their Education Program results in the complete elimination of single-use plastic bags, it's a bit like spinning the wheels of your car when you're stuck in a snowbank. The heat of the effort might melt away some of the snow, but you could sit there until Spring (or until Hell freezes over) unless somebody gives you a push. To relieve our landfills of undigestible plastic, 96% of which is NOT being recycled, somebody has to say "the bag stops here". Somebody has to give reusable shopping bags a push to the forefront and single-use shopping bags (paper and plastic alike) a push to the side. See the film "Bag It". See how the fish you bring to your family's table has 2/3's of its stomach filled with bits of plastic and you'll ask yourself why we haven't acted sooner. Let's get the poisoness junk out of our food supply, just like we're getting the pesticides out of our farms. It's the single biggest gift you can give to the health of your kids and grandkids.
Rose Way March 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Southampton's Waldbaum manager said that they eliminated 6,000 bags per week within 90 days of the law taking effect. That's over 300,000 bags per year, not including the summer crowd. That didn't cost taxpayers a dime and it saved Waldbaum's a bunch of money. This is a win-win for everyone.
Meadow Lane March 19, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I believe that the Town's Education Program was funded by their member stores and alliances. Brendan might know the answer to that better than me. If they mail us a bunch of printed material, delivered by the Postal Service's trucks, I'll be upset. Talk about trying to improve the environment while polluting it!
Gramps Pupany March 19, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Pollution and poison in our food stream, such as the BPAs contained in plastic bags, is a very "real thing". And our Council is not a single-issue Board, which I'm sure you know. They're buried in a pile of important work and I'm delighted that they added this matter to their Agenda. Big distances are often covered with small steps. What's important is that they've started the journey. I'm looking for a reduction in our waste stream and adopting a reusable shopping bag program will eliminate those nasty landfill clogging bags that don't break down for 100s of years.
Nurse Ratchet March 19, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Yes and the plastic that they're finding in the stomachs of North Atlantic fish is loaded with poisonous BPA which is used to make plastic soft and plyable. Plastic bags are loaded with the stuff. I have a hard time looking a fish in the eye without wondering how much plastic they pulled out of its stomach.
Fred 'n Freeda March 19, 2012 at 07:59 PM
The goal of this Task Force is to reduce plastic bags by 15% in the first year. That would be a major failure by any industrial standard. This is why government can't get the job done. Just ban the damn bags. They're a poisonous hazzard to mankind and our fisheries. Why continue using them at all. Do you need an unscientific study or education program to tell you the obvious? Get rid of them NOW.
Frog Morton March 19, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I just Googled the results of other plastic bag education programs done by towns like ours...they all flopped and accomplished nothing. Imagine if, every time we started our cars, we had to put a pair of socks on our car's muffler to keep the fumes from going into the air. How many people would do it? That's why we have a Catalytic Converter installed by the manufacturer. Ban these nasty bags, PLEASE.
The Beav March 19, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Just like drugs, you have to WANT to stop the proliferation of single-use bags. These programs only defer the obvious decision. They shouldn't change the outcome.
Postman Sharp March 19, 2012 at 08:38 PM
"Bag It" was brilliant. It changed my life and buying habits. I was poisoning my family with my shopping decisions. It was easy to change. Please ban those darn bags; paper and plastic should both be banned.
Ralebird March 20, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Be careful what you wish for, Wendy. It's my understanding a lot of those bags are used to empty out cats' litter boxes and to pick up after dogs. Maybe you don't really want "all" of them brought back to the supermarket after all.
Ralebird March 20, 2012 at 04:29 AM
How many paper bags (at a taxpayer expense of a nickel apiece) were added to the refuse stream? Those bags, which take up forty times as much landfill space as plastic bags, will decompose quite a bit slower than newspapers - which have been found to still be readable after forty years in the dump.
Diane Sadowski March 20, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Simply said! And simply sad that the Town did not just go with a ban. And a ban should have nothing to do with this being a resort area.-the environment is the environment! and pollution is polution!
Diane March 25, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Check out bagitmovie.com and see if you can watch the whole movie. It was aired on PLUM tv a few weeks ago. What an eye-opener about plastics in our environment and how they will affect us (yes, we humans are part of the environment!) forever. I was against the ban b/c I thought they can just be recycled, but people just don't do it and the recycling program is not good enough. I also hope the governments take on the role of recycling and re-use more thoroughly, rather than just banning product. When recycling is done better, the public may become more educated about these issues.
Diane March 25, 2012 at 06:49 PM
cited in bagit movie.... NYC fills up the size of Yankee Stadium 3x's EACH DAY with garbage. Listen up and practice 3 words America: REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE!! Plastic products should not be used for single use/throw-away purposes! ... it's an oxymoron!


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