Home News Local News Suffolk’s plastic bag ban stalls, tabled by health committee for further amendment

Suffolk’s plastic bag ban stalls, tabled by health committee for further amendment

File photo: Denise Civiletti

Suffolk won’t be enacting the proposed ban on single-use carry-out plastic bags this month.

The county legislature’s health committee tabled the resolution this afternoon.

Legislator William Spencer, chairman of the committee and prime sponsor of the bill to ban the bags in Suffolk, said when moving to table the resolution that he will be working on amendments to the bill. It will require a second public hearing, he said.

“I expect the legislation will basically stay in its current form,” Spencer said in an interview after the meeting. “The amendments will be more concerning implementation of the measures,” to address the concerns of the administration and other legislators, he said.

The bill, introduced in March, would ban the use of plastic bags with plastic handles less than 2.25 mils thick. Paper bags and reusable bags could still be sold for 10 cents a piece.

The ban would attempt to cut down on pollution caused by single-use plastic bags, which often end up being discarded as litter after they are used and pose a dangerous risk to both wildlife and the environment.

The controversial legislation has garnered both support and criticism, drawing hours of testimony during a public hearing March 22. Supporters say that the ban would reduce the plastic bag litter that pollutes roadways and beaches. But opponents argue that the law would hurt businesses and claim that most plastic bags are reused by consumers.

Legislators heard more testimony today in support of the ban during the committee meeting in Riverhead.

Dr. Nancy Pierson of North Fork Audubon Society spoke today to urge passage of the bill.

“I’m also speaking for the thousand people from the North Fork who lent their signature on a petition to the Southold Town Board,” which deferred action last year because local officials felt it should be dealt with county-wide, Pierson said.

“One million birds, 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic bags — and that doesn’t include fish,” she said.

Environmental advocate Kevin McAllister, founder of Defend H20, asked legislators not to “let this legislation languish.” Plastics, bags in particular, are omnipresent in the marine environment and do great damage to wildlife.

He recalled shimmying up a tree to free “a blue heron caught by a monofilament snagged on a tree, a plastic bag wrapped around his foot like an ankle bracelet.” He said he couldn’t ignore its plight. “It’s just so eggregious that we as humans caused the brutality of this animal,” he said.

“This is basic common sense. I’m sorry you have all the blowback from the industry, but they’re wrong on this,” McAllister said.