Proposed ban of plastic bags finds support locally

Photo by Katrina Fuller One of many plastic bags near the Chadakoin River on Tuesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week proposed a statewide ban on plastic bags beginning Jan. 1.

A proposed statewide ban on plastic bags has drawn questions as well as support from local officials and community members. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags this week, which would ban the use of single-use plastic carryout bags at any point of sale.

However, the proposal exempts garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods such as fruits or sliced meat. The bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

According to the governor’s office, 10 cities, towns and villages in the state have plastic bag bands.

In March 2017, the governor and the state legislature blocked a 5-cent tax on plastic bags in New York City. However, a task force was created at that time to study plastic bags and the environment statewide.

County Executive George Borrello said he would like to see more details on the ban. He said it seems like a “180-degree shift” for the governor.

“I question the sincerity of this move,” Borrello said.

Borrello said he is concerned about microplastic pollution, but would want to make sure any regulations put forth would have a real impact. He said with some of the proposed exemptions, the bill might not have a big impact.

Borrello said it is not a fair proposal if it will burden a certain population over another.

Sherri A. Mason, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Fredonia, said she supports the ban of single-use plastic bags. She said the ban would follow the likes of California and Hawaii, two states that have already approved similar bans with success.

“There is not one of us who hasn’t seen the proverbial plastic bag stuck in a bush or tree, scattered along the sides of every roadway throughout our state unless, of course, it was recently cleaned,” Mason said. “And therein lies the problem.”

“These bags are given out for free but have huge and very real costs associated with them. Like other single-use plastic products, we can easily live without plastic bags and, quite frankly, prior to 1980, we did,” she continued.

Mason said plastic bags were introduced into the market in 1977. She said no one will be expected to “go back to the stone age” with the ban.

“We had society before the bag, and society will continue,” Mason said. “It will just be a cleaner future for us all.”

Previously, before Mason studied plastic pollution, she said she advocated for a plastic bag fee in the Dunkirk and Fredonia areas. While Fredonia was on board, Mason said Dunkirk was not, so the proposal was not put into action.

Local residents overall seemed to think a statewide ban on plastic bags would be positive. Farm Fresh Foods customer Mark Cooper said, “I’m all for it. The less plastic, the better.”

“(The ban) is probably a good idea — good for the environment,” Dennis Rhoades, another Farm Fresh Foods customer, said Tuesday evening.

“What’s he want us to do?” asked Holly Thompson, offering an alternative. “Unless we go back to paper bags.”

Sue Waggoner, who was shopping at Walmart Tuesday evening, mentioned that the ban might be bad for small businesses that might already have a stock of plastic bags. When asked if she has an opinion, she said, “I really don’t care. I use them; I throw them away. I see Walmart bags flying around everywhere.”

Agreeing plastic bag pollution is a problem, Jamestown resident Matt Morton mentioned he sees bags clog up drains frequently. “(The ban) is a smart move,” Morton said.