Months after the Southampton Town Board tabled a resolution to ban plastic bags in the town, this week Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera announced a new town campaign aimed at curbing plastic bag use without an outright ban.
“Priority number one is reducing plastic bag use and increasing their recycling rate, said Scalera in a press release issued on Tuesday. “Our goal is to increase the number of recycled plastic bags by 15 percent in one year.”
Scheduled to begin on Earth Day weekend — April 21 and 22 — the town’s newly created Plastic Bag Education Task Force is called “A Greener Southampton: The Solution is in the Bag.” The task force will host events at King Kullen in Bridgehampton from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and at Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays from noon to 2 p.m. where people will be encouraged to sign a pledge to reduce, reuse and recycle their plastic bags. Each store will sponsor activities for children, free giveaways and provide shoppers with a free reusable tote bag with every purchase of $10 or more.
The weekend will also highlight a Plastic Bag Challenge — a competition between local schools. Now through the end of April, the school collecting the most plastic bags will win a Trex bench made of recycled bags. Students will also create posters for the campaign and at least one will be used to promote the campaign.
“Success can be achieved by working with local businesses, whose contributions to date have been commendable,” said Councilman Chris Nuzzi.
The task force includes local merchants and business groups, as well as the town’s green committee, sustainability coordinator, waste management department, and solid waste advisory committee.
As part of their participation in the task force, each stakeholder has assumed unique responsibilities related to the “Solution is in the Bag” effort. Among them are establishing evaluative criteria, educational outreach, engaging retailers to develop incentive plans, marketing and promotions, and collecting data to gauge the success of the program. Participating merchants will encourage the use of reusable bags through signs and promotion pieces, display “A Greener Southampton” decal in their front windows, act as repositories for plastic bags, and agree to be featured on the town’s website.
To measure progress, the town will evaluate plastic bag use between February 2011 and February 2012. All participants will provide data, but the first sets will come from the Great East End Clean-up, scheduled for the same weekend as the “Solution is in the Bag” kickoff events. At the end of the first year, if the initial targets are met, said Scalera, new ones will be established.