A Sustainable Solution For Plastic Pollution

The Ulster County Legislature has voted 15-7 in support of the “Bring Your Own Bag Act,” which would ban the use of plastic bags by retailers in stores.

On Thursday, Sept. 20, a majority voted in support of the bill, which would eliminate the use of plastic bags in stores for customers and would fine stores who do not comply. Customers would also be issued 5 cent charge for not bringing their own bag. 

A ban on plastic retail bags for New Paltz was put into effect in April 2015 and this new bill would impose the same bans for all of Ulster County.

This law will be put into effect on July 15, 2019 if enacted. The bill must now be reviewed by Michael Hein, the Ulster County Executive, who will decide what will happen next to this attempt of reducing plastic pollution.

 “As of now, this resolution has not been fully executed and a determination has not yet been made on the matter,”  said Assistant Deputy Executive Judy Riley.

The SUNY New Paltz campus just as much as the town of New Paltz would be impacted. Mike Malloy, the director of the environmental health & safety department on the SUNY New Paltz campus, expressed his support of the bill.  

“I believe a lot of damage from plastic is being done, especially to the wildlife. I routinely remove plastic bags from lakes and streams every time I fish,” Malloy said. 

While this bill would greatly reduce the use of plastic bags from now on, there are still many plastic bags that need to be disposed of properly. Malloy suggested “coming up with a recycling plan for any plastic bags… most recyclers don’t accept plastic bags.”

While there is some opposition to the bill, many Ulster County residents are thrilled about the possibility of this bill being passed. They recognize the pollution caused by an excess of plastic and believe this is one way to help reduce the pollution plaguing the environment.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Falley said. “It will take getting used to but if we don’t do it, there’s always gonna be people who don’t mind the five-cents charge,”Danielle Falley, a 19-year-old student at SUNY New Paltz shared her opinion on the new law. 

The bill has raised questions regarding where the five-cents charge would go. So far, there has been no talk of this issue by legislature or the County Executive.

SUNY New Paltz Campus Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Mitten expressed her excitement and approval regarding the proposed policy.

“Implementing environmentally friendly policies on plastic bags is a step in the right direction of moving our region towards zero waste,” Mitten said. “ I am proud that SUNY New Paltz set the example, along with the Village of New Paltz, of not using plastic bags several years ago.”