Rarely is a public meeting held that deals with an issue that in some way, however small, so directly affects the lives of everyone in town. But such an event will happen tonight at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room, where officials will host a community forum to educate people on and receive input about possibly banning Southold retailers from supplying customers with plastic bags.
Can a ban on plastic bags realistically prevent them from ending up on streets and beaches? Could the proposal’s potential benefits be outweighed by its costs to local businesses? And is it even possible to enforce such a measure?
Those are among the major questions the forum is designed to explore.
At the meeting, panelists — including representatives of the Southold Business Alliance, Group for the East End, North Fork Environmental Council and North Fork Audubon Society — will address the pros and cons of adopting the ban. Members of the public will then be able to weigh in with thoughts and comments of their own.
The proposal is being pitched by the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association with the goal of having all five East End towns ban the bags. As written, the measure states that retailers must provide reusable bags and/or paper bags to customers, although it exempts plastic produce bags and plastic bags measuring 28 by 36 inches or larger. Fines for merchants found in violation would range from $100 to $250 per offense.
It would be premature to take a side before tonight’s forum, but the more people who attend, the better educated we’ll all be.