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Op-Ed: Say Bye-Bye to Plastic Bags

Group for the East End advocates plastic bag ban.

The 100-billion single-use plastic bags that Americans throw away each year have created a damaging niche in our natural environment.

Made from petroleum products, the bags become mistaken food sources for ocean wildlife, litter our streets and beaches and break down — after upwards of 1,000 years — into toxic chemicals that contribute to water and air pollution.

It’s almost to the point where we have accepted them as part of the natural landscape, a new species if you will. If you don’t believe it, check out "The Majestic Plastic Bag," a mockumentary funded by a California non-profit working to ban plastic bags in their area. It’s funny in a sad way, isn’t it?

Don’t get depressed; unlike many of the complex, doomsday environmental problems we face, this one comes with an easy fix. All over the world, governments from the largest countries — Italy, Germany, South Africa, Australia — down to the tiniest village — Southampton — are making great strides to break this 30-year habitat of convenience.  

Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment successfully advocated for the village to draft a law that would ban the distribution of the most commonly used disposable plastic bags. The village is currently working out the details of the proposal.

Mackie Finnerty, a member of SAVE, expressed the importance of a ban in the village due to its location. “We thought it was important to implement a plastic bag ban in the seaside towns because plastic bags are frequently found in ponds, on the dunes and along beaches," she said. “Plastic bags not only end up as litter, but they also kill birds and sea creatures, compromising our already fragile ecosystems.” 

Last year, teamed up with approximately 30 other Long Island-wide organizations and advocated for the passage of Suffolk County’s proposal to eliminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags at large retail stores. Unfortunately, the bill met considerable opposition from the plastic and grocery industries, and it fizzled out. 

However, momentum is now growing and with some luck we will be saying bye-bye to disposable plastic bags in the near future.  In the meantime, think reusable, reusable, reusable bags.

Until We Can Say Bye-Bye for Good, Here’s What You Can Do:

1. When asked if you prefer paper or plastic and the checkout counter, reply “neither” and start sporting reusable bags. They are everywhere in many styles and most cost less than a can of soda.

2. Support the village of Southampton’s goal of eliminating the distribution and use of disposable plastic bags. Please write to Mayor Mark Epley and the village trustees and express your support for the proposal.

3. Look for the recycling bins in larger retail stores to drop off unwanted plastic bags.

4. Contact your municipal leaders and ask them to ban single-use plastic bags in your community.

Jerry Can March 17, 2011 at 05:08 PM
Well DD they are inconvenient to you so by all means go for the hemp bags. But they are not to others. They are quite practical.
Jerry Can March 17, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Why would anyone choose to dump oil on the ground. That is a foolish choice. If they spill oil by accident or on purpose sure they should clean it up. Volume is also important, location too, impact also. People spilling oil depends on how severe and where. Industry is held to a higher standard. Exxon was held accountable because the captain of the ship was drunk and away from deck and the company was found liable for that and the damage it caused. Exxon did not choose to flood the bay. BP chose to cut corners on safety to put its platform to work faster. It made a poor choice that created a major oil spill and killed people. It recognized its responsability. If i were to spill oil It would not be that much as to create a major catastrophic impact. Sure I should clean up as best I could. If I were to spill oil on a road or sidewalk it depends on how much again. If I walk away and something happens I suppose I would be held accountable. But in general its common sense that most people should clean it up anyway. Its like plastic bags if you purposely trow it out a litter, there are laws already to deal with that as someone stated above. But for every person that does that, how many more are more cautious or better educated?
Jerry Can March 17, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Its not that its incomprehensible to me GS, its just that I disagree. I don't think that a plastic bag from a supermarket is a threat as compared to other environmental dangers and risks. I 'm not bothered by windmills but many people are. I think they can be quite unobtrusive in certain locations. Luckily these locations are nowhere close to me...lol. There's room out east. What you say is right you need a combo of complimentary energy resources some will be more harmful than others. Price and cost will always be a consideration. Safety is also, and should continue to be. But plastic bags are not the enemy as some would want to impose on us. Its people that are responsible for how they manage their garbage.
Benja Schwartz March 18, 2011 at 02:12 PM
People dump gas because there is nowhere to dispose of it safely. America needs to make a choice. I am not talking about Obama or the Federal government, I am talking about us. Do we stand for anarchy or are we a democratic republic? I have a dream. CCA, the Civic Coalition of America. A NGO which would be responsive to, support and mobilize civic actions to support a democratic republic. The current governmental establishments are dysfunctional. The is hope but it will take a vision and walking the talk. Back to plastic. I believe there are appropriate uses of plastic, but grocery shopping bags are not one of them. Ban the Bags!
Jerry Can March 18, 2011 at 04:25 PM
BS..Try your town's sanitation/recycling center they more than likely have a hazardous waste program where once a month they have a pick up. That's what we have here in Southampton-at least they did last time i needed it. I also recommend that you use the hemp based bags as opposed to the plastic ones made in China from petroleum and other dangerous chemicals. Make sure you was your bag often so they don't develop bacteria and mold. I'll continue using my plastic bags made from natural gas that recyclable and reusable.

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