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Greenburgh Supervisor Questions County's Proposed Plastic Bag Ban

Shoppers may soon never see another one of these again if the legislation passes.
Shoppers may soon never see another one of these again if the legislation passes. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user MrTakeoutBags

*This article has been updated WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Westchester County Board of Legislators is considering a countywide ban on plastic bags, but some have raised questions about the value of the proposal.

“These bags and containers are a significant source or pollution throughout the country and cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year in clean up,” the draft legislation proposed by Legislator Catherine Parker (D-7) reads.

Under the proposed law retail establishments can’t sell or offer plastic bags, unless it’s a garment or large bag.  Paper bags can be used, but must be 100 percent recyclable, contain no old-growth fiber, contain post-consumer recycled content and say “reusable” and “recyclable” on the outside.

The law also bans the used of polystyrene, plastic foam, except when the containers stores raw meat, fish or poultry from a butcher or if the food was pre-packaged when the retailer bought it.

The fine for the first violation is $250 and $500 for the second.

“I’m really still in the process of formulating my own opinions,” said Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. “A year ago I was very pro the ban, but then you hear from the public and you start thinking. So, my position is very open-minded if anything.”

Feiner said he’s received a variety of responses on a potential plastic bag ban. Greenburgh’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) began to study the issue last years and found that studies showed that paper bags were just as harmful to the environment as plastic bags.

The CAC met with representatives of major supermarket chains who said paper bags create storage and potential vermin problems. They were also concerned about the economic impact of the legislation.

The CAC found that the problem was not what the bag is made from, but the fact that it’s only used once, and that shoppers don’t even expect bags from merchants in Europe and Asia. One individual the CAC heard from was a doctor who said reusable bags could be a source of food contamination.

The CAC recommended a fee for one-time use bags, with the exception of certain items, which they felt would result in a large reduction of one-time use bags without inconveniencing the shopper who forgot their reusable bag.

Hastings-on-Hudson is among a handful of municipalities in Westchester to have passed laws banning plastic bags, and are currently being sued by the Food Industry Alliance.

Michael Rosen, the Food Industry Alliance’s president, said that it takes less energy to create a plastic bag and that state law requires retailers take back plastic bags.

“At this point, Hastings is the only village we sued,” said Rosen. “We would look to see if other localities are willing to work with us and find a more amenable solution. It’s our content that many shopper like plastic bags and they will seek our retailers that offer plastic bags.”

Hastings-on-Hudson plans to fight the lawsuit.

“We intend to contest the action and vigorously defend our new law,” said Mayor Peter Swiderski.

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