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