New legislation in the Village of New Paltz has banned the distribution of plastic bags in shops and restaurants in the village. Through this ban, the Village Board aims to reduce plastic waste and encourage the use of reusable shopping bags in the commercial district. The policy will go into effect in April 2015.
The village is in talks with the town board to see “if we can set the date for enacting the law as Earth Day to celebrate the occasion,” according to Gian Starr of the New Paltz Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), who spearheaded the legislation.
So far, the Town of New Paltz, which includes two major supermarkets Shop Rite and Stop & Shop, has not enacted any similar restrictions.
Starr said how this new legislation came to be, from its earliest stages to its adoption. The proposed policy was instantly popular among New Paltz residents.
“[Through research for the EPC] I discovered that many municipalities, states and even national governments had legislation regarding plastic bags,” Starr said. “Our EPC brought the issue to the Village Board, and after discussions between the commission and the board over several months as well as after several rounds of public comment, the law was adopted.”
Starr also explained the successes of previous plastic bag regulations elsewhere.
“In places where such laws have been enacted, there has been a significant increase in the use of reusable bags, which is the goal of the law,” Starr said. “This corresponded with a huge decrease in the use of plastic bags. The environmental impacts have been significant.”
However, plastic bag bans continue to face rising controversy in public lawsuits. According to recordonline.com, Town Councilman Dan Torres received a letter from a supermarket industry spokesman which vocalized the industry’s distaste for such legislation and “[requested] that the New Paltz Town Council refrain from introducing legislation regulating plastic bags until the court rules on [their] claims.” The article also cited a recent lawsuit in Hastings-on-Hudson over an identical plastic bag ban.
Torres called the ban “a pre-emptive strike,” according to recordonline.com. “It’s exactly the way large corporations try to intimidate small communities when it comes to environmental issues,” Torres said.
Despite the controversy, Starr remains hopeful for the widespread implementation and success of such legislation.
“There are several municipalities in New York that have enacted the exact same law that our Village has passed,” Starr said. “They are Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye, Southampton and East Hampton. It turns out that as we were developing our law, Hastings-on-Hudson was busy passing their own. It is a growing movement with significant positive impacts for the environment.”