The Examiner

Committee Proposes P’ville Ordinance to Ban Plastic Bags

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By Janine Bowen

Single-use plastic bags could soon be discontinued in Pleasantville businesses.

PleasantvilleRecycles, a local committee committed to helping educate the public about recycling, has asked the village board to consider an ordinance to prohibit plastic bags and replace them with paper bags. It would also encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to stores.

“When you stack up the harm plastic bags create for the environment, in general, against the harm [eliminating them] creates for us, it’s a no-brainer. We must restrict single-use bags,” said PleasantvilleRecycles Chairman Dan Turner.

Before presenting the proposal to officials on Jan. 27, committee members spoke to residents and merchants about the idea. Over 500 residents along with dozens of business owners signed pledges to show their support for the initiative, which has already been successfully implemented in other Westchester towns.

“All agree that the timing is right and that we should join other communities, such as Rye and Mamaroneck, and actually pass this initiative,” Turner said.

Nationwide, only 12 percent of plastic bags, which are not biodegradable, get recycled. Most end up in landfills. Plastic bags are also leading causes of pollution, clogged drains and harm to wildlife.

Karen Chapman, a Pleasantville High School student who works closely with PleasantvilleRecycles, recently spent two hours photographing the village’s streets and found more than 60 bags littering the municipality.

Currently, stores in Pleasantville and statewide, are required to have a message on plastic bags encouraging recycling, as well as provide receptacles for customers to return those bags. Some village trustees are concerned that placing another restriction may hinder business owners.

“We just need to concern ourselves with putting another mandate on the businesses that they are not prepared (for),” said Trustee Colleen Griffin Wagner.

Andrea Garbarini and Lynda Shenkman Curtis, who made the presentation to the board on behalf of PleasantvilleRecycles, pointed out that the ordinances in Rye and Mamaroneck have had little effect on merchants. In addition, store owners could actually profit from the ban by either selling reusable bags or charging a fee to provide paper bags to those who do not bring reusable bags.

“I’m very hopeful that this will be something that they will be easily adapted to,” Garbarini said.

The ban on plastic would have some exemptions. Dry cleaners would still be permitted to use them as would grocery stores. Restaurants that provide take-out orders that could leak would also still be allowed to use plastic.

Trustee Mindy Berard said she supports the idea of reusable bags, which are already distributed by the chamber of commerce and the farmers market. But she questioned the need to impose an ordinance. Berard pointed out that past education efforts have helped make the village the top recycling municipality in Westchester.

Garbarini and Shenkman Curtis agreed that education is important, but stressed that is insufficient to encourage people to change their behavior.

Wagner added that after seeing PleasantvilleRecycles’ presentation of the documentary “Bag It,” which shows the environmental harm plastic bags cause, she adamantly refused to use plastic bags–for about two weeks. She then slipped back into old habits.

“Unless you’re going to educate all the time, every day, it doesn’t work,” Wagner said.

Trustee Jonathan Cunningham concurred with Wagner’s sentiment.

“When something’s pointed out that’s so egregiously wrong and can be fixed, seemingly with a simple solution, I don’t know why we need to wait for the education process to work,” he said.

The board plans on scheduling a public hearing in the coming weeks to hear input from the public. Officials are currently in the process of reviewing the proposed ordinance.


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