Plastic Bag Ban Sparks Local Criticism

Photo by Lizzie Nimetz.

The New Paltz Village Board’s ban on plastic bags in restaurants and retail shops in the village, which is set to begin next April, continues to stir controversy among business owners in New Paltz.

The legislation aims to reduce the village’s environmental impact in regards to plastic usage, yet some locals doubt that this new policy will impact environmental issues at all, despite successful identical policies in municipalities in Long Island and Westchester County. Additionally, some business owners critiqued the implementation of such policies on a local level.

In an article from the Times-Herald Record, Abdul Joulani, owner of Jack’s Meats and Deli, voiced his opinion on the “hardships” this law will produce. He said that he will ultimately have to charge for plastic bag alternatives in his store, something “he’s not happy about.”

“In California [where a state-wide ban has been signed into law] people know what to expect,” Joulani said. “But we serve a lot of tourists. They’re going to be surprised if we can’t use plastic bags.”

Amy Cohen, co-owner of The Groovy Blueberry, said she supports this law yet also wishes it were passed on a statewide level and not on a local level “in a 1.7 mile village with one dozen retail stores.” She said that this law will cost the village over $6,000 and this cost could easily be avoided by requiring stores switch to paper bags instead of plastic.

Cohen said she is willing to comply with this new legislation, yet she and other business owners are annoyed that nobody on the village board could be bothered to ask local business owners what they thought about this policy before it was passed.

“This will not affect our business as my customers will be fine with a paper bag,” Cohen said. “It is really no big deal. But if the village had just asked shop owners, we would have been willing to comply. In fact, I attended the public hearing for this law and offered to go door-to-door to every store and have them sign a declaration saying that we all agree to switch to paper. This would not require a law [and] the village would save over $6,000.”

She also said that this legislation is “completely ridiculous” for the village because the Town of New Paltz has no interest in even considering similar laws. As a result, the Town of New Paltz — which includes major shopping centers and grocery stores like Stop & Shop and ShopRite — will not be affected any time soon.

“The town has no interest in this law, as they are waiting to see what happens in other towns as the plastic bag companies are suing towns across New York State,” Cohen said.

Overall, business owners seem enthusiastic about this effort to reduce harmful plastic consumption and make a positive impact on environmental issues. It is the level and method of implementation, not the policy itself, which business owners take issue with, Cohen said.