Should plastic bags be banned from local stores?

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Greenport IGA cashier Patsy Kaczorowski bags a customer’s groceries in December.

Southold Town is considering banning the use of plastic bags at local stores.

Diana Van Buren of North Fork Audubon pitched the idea to board members during a July 3 work session.

East Hampton and Southampton villages already outlaw plastic bags, but a move to ban them townwide in Southampton failed last December in a party-line vote.

Ms. Van Buren said the most important reason Southold should consider the ban is the danger plastic bags poses to the marine environment.

She said a local bag ban is particularly important because Long Island is surrounded by water and fish, sea mammals and birds think the bags are squid or fish and try to eat them, causing the animals to suffocate.

“The bottom line is you make this, they don’t go away,” Ms. Van Buren said of plastic bags. “You use it once and it’s trash.”

The only good second use for the bags is picking up dog waste, she said, adding that Ireland and Los Angeles have already banned single-use plastic bags.

“It’s not something revolutionary,” she said. “We are late for the party on this.”

North Fork Audubon and Southold Town are considering holding a joint public screening of the film “Bag It,” about the dangers of plastic bags.

Ms. Van Buren said North Fork Audubon is also working on screening the film at Mattituck-Laurel Library.

Town Board members suggested potential ways Southold could tweak a ban to make it more palatable to businesses.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty said Southampton gave stores six months to implement the program. Councliman Bill Ruland asked if corn-based dissolvable single-use bags could be considered instead.

Ms. Van Buren said it would be difficult to enforce the use of corn-based bags, since they look very similar to petroleum-based ones.

Councilman Chris Talbot reminded the board that when the law was instituted in Southampton Village, stores there began charging five cents for paper ones.

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