Hauppauge, NY—A coalition including representation from labor, business, government and education joined together on Monday morning at the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge to highlight the upcoming effective date of Suffolk County’s carry-out bag local law and to present results from data collection effort undertaken be several school district throughout the county. The law, designed to encourage shoppers to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag), goes into effect this January 1st and requires grocery and retail stores to charge 5 cents for single-use carryout bags in effort to incentivize consumers to bring reusable bags. With New Yorkers disposing more than 9 billion single use plastic bags every year-with millions of them ending up polluting our streets, trees, harbors and bays- the legislation was crafted with the intention to reduce overall bag waste.
As a companion to the local law, additional legislation was passed earlier this year forming a working group to provide education and resources to retailers and consumers on the transition and to measure the effectiveness of the policy. Dr. Rebecca Grella, a science educator from the Brentwood Union Free School District, chaired the committee and coordinated the efforts involving seven school districts and St. Joseph’s College to conduct the survey to quantify Suffolk County consumer habits. The students surveyed 11,395 shoppers in the months of November and December. “The results of our data collection revealed that 71% of shoppers use plastic. We want to effect change and bring credibility to our efforts by scientifically measuring the impact of the local law, and to accomplish that we plan to repeat our efforts again after the policy is in effect for a full year. The goal is to see the 71% decrease and the reusable bag usage increase. I am truly proud of the participation of our students, they have played a key role in this extensive project and are true stakeholders in the future of their environment.”
Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D., the lead sponsor of the bill which received bipartisan support back in December of 2016, stated, “Our goal is to be good stewards of our planet and protect our resources for the next generation. Science is uncovering more information about the detrimental effects of plastic on our environment and health that will impact us for years to come. The fact is that the effects of plastics on our environment are progressively getting worse. As a county surrounded by beaches and bays, this bill is a meaningful step in protecting our shorelines, our water resources and the health of our residents.”
“Enactment of this local law will not only benefit the environment, but it will help eliminate the ubiquitous plastic we see on our streets and roadsides,” said Legislator Al Krupski. “I hope consumers will opt to bring their own bags rather than paying for the five cent paper or plastic bags and it will become a habit for most Suffolk County residents.”
Seven school districts participated in the data collection, including students from Northport, Brentwood, Huntington, Smithtown, East Islip and North Babylon. About 30 of the students were present at the press conference and Catalina Garcia, a student representative from Brentwood, came to the podium to state, “I was stationed at a convenient store during the survey and was surprised to see people leaving with a single pack of gum in a plastic bag. We’re not always aware of the consequences our actions have on our environment and it’s my hope that our efforts will change that and reduce the use of plastic bags.”
Supermarkets were also represented on the working group with a seat held by Jay Peltz of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, Inc. “The efforts behind the policy are truly extraordinary. To bring labor, business and environmentalists together to work productively on a shared goal has been impressive. We believe this law will achieve the goal of reducing bag waste and increase reusable bags.”
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, stated, “Avoid the fee, never pay it, and just bring your own bag. Save your money and help save the environment.”
Legislator Spencer offered free reusable bags to residents who call his office at 631-854-4500. A webpage providing resources for retailers and consumers will be available by logging on to www.suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/healthservices.