One year after locals expressed an outpouring of support for a townwide ban on plastic bags, a group of residents at Tuesday’s Southold Town Board meeting had a question: What happened?
The advocates, which included neighbors, farmers and the North Fork Audubon Society, also brought a petition with hundreds of signatures.
“Here we are a year later, and you have before you … a petition signed by your fellow citizens saying we want you to stand up for the environment,” said David Markel of Southold. “We want you, the Town Board, to ban single-use plastic carry-out bags.”
Last December, Southampton and East Hampton towns banned single-use plastic shopping bags; the ban took effect this year.
A few months before the South Fork towns adopted their ban, Southold Town hosted a public forum to discuss whether it too should implement one. At that meeting, an overwhelming majority of attendees spoke in favor of a ban.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Ann Surchin, secretary for the North Fork Audubon Society, said the town was “at a threshold.”
“The amount of plastic waste in this world is really frightening,” she said. “We can make a smart decision.”
But Supervisor Scott Russell said he wouldn’t support a townwide ban at the moment, though he’d consider a broader measure on the county level.
Mr. Russell said a ban could make it harder for businesses that rely on plastic bags, like 7-Eleven or nearby supermarkets.
“What this ban would do would be adding to the operational costs of local businesses … at a time when Riverhead is unwilling to do that,” he said.
“What businesses are going to suffer?” Mr. Markel responded. He accused the Town Board of dragging its heels on studying the issue so that it might be forgotten.
Some business owners at Tuesday’s meeting backed Mr. Markel and the plastic bag ban.
Adam Suprenant, owner of Blossom Meadow Farms in Cutchogue, said they use reusable wine tote bags and paper bags in their tasting room.
“There’s no downside to passing this,” Mr. Suprenant said.
Some Town Board members said they’d consider exploring a ban after doing more research.
“Philosophically, I’m not opposed to it to begin with,” said board member Robert Ghosio.
Board member William Ruland said he’d first want to see how widespread support for a ban is in the community.
“The first thing I want to do is read the petition,” he said.
Photo Caption: Tess Gordon of Laurel holds up her reusable bag at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting. She said she supported a ban on plastic bags in town.