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Legislature Urges Statewide Ban on Single-Use Carryout Retail Bags

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Legislature Urges Statewide Ban on Single-Use Carryout Retail Bags

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reviving an issue that had first been discussed five years ago, the Tompkins County Legislature voted in support of a ban on single-use retail bags—this time, calling for either a ban on both plastic and paper carryout bags, or as an alternative a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper bags, to be approved at the State level. The measure urges adoption of such legislation by the Assembly and Senate, and approval by the Governor. The vote was 10-2, with Legislators Mike Sigler and Michael Lane voting no (Legislators Rich John and Glenn Morey were excused). The County’s Environmental Management Council, which in 2013 had urged that a Local Law be passed to prohibit plastic bags, this time advocated the statewide ban, also recommended by the Legislature’s Planning, Development and Environmental Quality Committee.

Committee chair Anna Kelles spoke to clarify the issue of plastic vs. paper, saying the resolution indicates that a ban on both plastic and paper carryout bags would be preferred, but research has shown that a plastic bag ban, with a fee on paper bags, has also dramatically decreased single-use bag use.

Legislator Sigler, as he did at a past meeting where support of a proposed bag ban was discussed, displayed comparable amounts of plastic and paper bags as a visual aid, maintaining plastic takes up much less space, and with landfills not a finite resource, and the paper not recyclable, that this proposal is misdirected. While a long-time supporter of recycling and the County’s successful recycling programs, Legislator Lane said that he regretfully could not support the bag ban. He said he can only remember one material that has been banned from the county’s waste stream, microbeads, and he cannot support a ban on something that people use. Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne said the economics of any ban should be addressed, that those who cannot afford a fee or to purchase reusable bags must be considered if any such legislation is enacted.