Over the last couple of years, Andrea Vladimir and Pradma Sridhar watched as residents’ proposals in surrounding communities to limit or prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags gained traction.
Local legislation was approved in New Castle and Pleasantville while Croton-on-Hudson has been discussing a similar measure since last year.
But in the Village of Briarcliff Manor there was no movement from the populace. So Vladimir and Sridhar, along with the help of fellow residents Jenny Sendek, Danielle Weisberg and Anne Golden and Meryl Golden, formed a grassroots group, Briarcliff Sustainability, to begin the process of moving the village toward a reusable bag initiative of its own.
“I think the most important thing is education and outreach and (to) let the community know what the problems are with the plastic bags,” said Sridhar.
In addition to a public education campaign, the group has launched a petition drive within the village, hoping to collect 500 to 600 signatures that can eventually be presented to the Village Board. Currently, the petition is closing in on 200 signees, Sridhar said.
Vladimir said that a major obstacle is the one major supermarket chain in the municipality, Acme, has opposed a ban and instead supports a charge for plastic bags. They are supported by the powerful Food Industry Alliance, which supports the fee because the supermarkets can keep the money.
The village’s other supermarket, Mrs. Green’s, voluntarily does not use single-use plastic bags, she said.
Furthermore, the committee will need to work with another corporate entity, CVS, which has a location in town.
The group has been in contact with the Briarcliff Manor Chamber of Commerce in hopes of reaching common ground, Vladimir said. Briarcliff Sustainability has been reaching out to merchants and is working on developing a questionnaire to gauge where the chamber’s membership stands on the issue.
“It would be nice education-wise just getting people interested in the benefits and making them aware,” Vladimir said of the proposed law.
Those who have concerns regarding a ban on single-use plastic bags have often used the argument that a portion of the customers would shop in a neighboring community that does not have the legislation in place, Sridhar said. For example, since Ossining has no local law prohibiting the use of plastic bags, some fear shoppers will make the trek to that community’s Stop & Shop. Sridhar dismisses the fears.
“I don’t think people will drive an extra five miles for milk and eggs because they have plastic bags,” she said.
Chamber of Commerce President Mike Milano said that the organization met with the members of the sustainability group and the chamber does plan to poll its members in the near future. Changes in a few of its officers delayed movement on the issue but the poll is on the list of action items for this month, Milano said.
It is unlikely that the chamber will take an official position but it wants its members to have the issue aired.
“We want to be sure that the concerns and questions of our chamber base are heard,” Milano said.
Questions about what any proposed legislation may ultimately look like is still unknown, according to Vladimir and Sridhar. The opening stages of the process has been on education and explaining to people the advantages.
“What we find, I would say 99.5 percent of people would say that plastics is a problem,” Sridhar said. “There are very, very, very few people who wants plastics around.”
It would be easier if Westchester County passes a countywide initiative similar to Dutchess, Ulster and Suffolk counties, they said. But according to a Board of Legislators spokesperson, the county-wide initiative is still in committee and there has been no recent movement on the issue.
Vladimir said what the group would like to communicate to the public is that it’s not only far better for the environment to ban plastic bags but it can be achieved by a fairly easy behavioral change.
“In the end it’s so much more efficient to have everything in your reusable bag,” she said.
Briarcliff Sustainability can be reached through its Facebook page.