On April 22nd, towns and cities across the world will be celebrating the 49th anniversary of Earth Day. As Earth Day approaches, communities pause and take into account the environmental impact of their actions. One such focus is the use of plastics in society and the ramifications it has on the world around us. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it takes 100-400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. Many municipalities have targeted one specific area–plastic bags. Single-use, disposable plastics bags are a major source of litter and pollution in our environment as they do not biodegrade and are extremely difficult to recycle.
New Castle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Rye are all Westchester towns that have passed laws prohibiting the use of plastic bags. North Castle is now evaluating similar legislation regarding the banning of plastic bags in retail stores. Two prominent figures who are spearheading the movement for this ban are North Castle residents, Linda Trummer-Napolitano and Beth Pollack.
“We launched a BYOB campaign a few years back to encourage residents to bring their own reusable bags wherever they shop. We are in an active period of gathering signatures on a petition from residents who support legislation that restricts single plastic carry out bags and imposes a fee on other carry out bags modeled after the New Castle law.”
New Castle passed its Reusable Bag Law on January 1, 2017 with the objective of reducing plastic bag usage. The law only applies to retail transactions and its goal is to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. Certain establishments such as grocery, convenience stores and pharmacies are required to charge 10 cents for paper bags. Restaurants, delis, boutiques and liquor stores are exempt from the fee. When deciding how to enforce the law, the New Castle Sustainability Board decided it would rely on reports from consumers and merchants to identify businesses that were not in compliance.
“Our goal is to find a solution that will work in North Castle without causing hardship to anyone. We are a long way from proposing any legislation but we think momentum is on our side.”
Inside Armonk interviewed local North Castle residents about their views on this important issue. “I think eventually the town should ban the plastic bags. The negative impact it has on the environment is obvious,” says local resident Michael Aberman. “There needs to be a more gradual change to the issue because this is not like other issues.” He then goes on to talk about implementing a tax on plastic bags, much like they do in New Castle. “I think there could be a ten-cent tax to the bags which could incentivize customers to bring their own.”
Some have questioned whether imposing a tax on plastic bags would hurt business owners. However, research from around the region has provided evidence that the long-term effects on stores are very positive. Two studies conducted by Fairfield University one year after Westport, CT passed its law shows a significant increase in reusable bag rates (approximately 50 percent) at the Westport Stop and Shop.
“In DeCicco’s, they shouldn’t ban grocery bags, but for other small stores they should,” states Armonk resident Rianna Rabinowitz. “I wouldn’t think twice about using a paper bag or plastic bag in a large store like DeCicco’s.” Many Armonk residents appear in support of banning plastic bags or imposing a ten cent charge. When asked about whether North Castle should ban plastic bags, Armonk resident Blake Rosen stated, “They should ban it where it is necessary. I know that some states charge ten cents a bag and I think that could be effective in Armonk.”
According to Napolitano, “We believe that many North Castle residents are supportive of a reusable bag or BYOB bill because they recognize the perils that plastic bags pose to our wildlife and the environment.” The Armonk Chamber of Commerce supports the BOYB campaign. She further states that the best solution to this problem is to create legislation.