Tag Archive | "Dieter von Lehsten"

Regional Ban on Plastic Bags Could Be in Place by Earth Day

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By Mara Certic

The days of deciding between paper and plastic may be dwindling here on the East End, as local municipalities make plans to join together to enforce a regional ban on single-use plastic bags.

According to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association is considering a ban on the bags that would span from Montauk Point to beyond the Shinnecock Canal.

Southampton and East Hampton Villages both banned the bags back in 2011, but none of the local towns have managed to adopt such a law thus far. Southampton Town has considered similar legislation in the past, but those discussions were initially struck down by the former Republican town board before they could be taken to public hearing.

Dieter von Lehsten, co-chair of Southampton’s Sustainability Committee, has been one of the people spearheading the movement to ban plastic. According to Mr. von Lehsten, the single-use plastic bag is the largest consumer item in the world.

In America, 105 billion single-use plastic bags are distributed every year; 23 million of those are given out in the Town of Southampton, and it is estimated that only 3ee to 4 percent of those bags are recycled, he said.

The rest of the bags are floating around, somewhere, Mr. von Lehsten said. Many of them get buried in landfills, but a large number of them are found in our bays and oceans.

A lot of plastic pollution shows up in large slow-moving currents called gyres. A large island of plastic has built up in the North Pacific Gyre. “In the center of this gyre sits an island, imagine twice the size of Texas,” Mr. von Lehsten said. According to Greenpeace, this trash island is made up “of everything from tiny pieces of plastic debris to large ghost nets lost by the fishing industry.”

Plastic contains toxic chemicals, which then get passed on to animals when they mistake the small petrochemical particles for food. According to Greenpeace, plastic often then accumulates in animals’ digestive tracts, essentially choking them. Sometimes, animals who mistakenly ingest plastic starve and die from a lack of nutrition. And now plastic has found its way into our food chain, Mr. von Lehsten said.

Mr. von Lehsten said he has been met by overwhelming support among community members and legislators when he has discussed this ban with individuals and civic associations.

“I had meetings in Southold, Shelter Island and East Hampton and talked to all councils in these areas and they are going to vote for the ban of the bag,” Mr. von Lehsten said to the members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on September 22.

“It is now just a question, who makes the first step,” he said. “It is another one of those dances of the politicians.”

“So now we really want to force the issue,” Mr. von Lehsten said, and added he has started a letter campaign to get individuals and associations to ask the town boards to ban the bags.

The sustainability committee is suggesting the BYOB campaign—bring your own bag. One day, he would like to see a ban on all plastic and Styrofoam, he said, “but you’ve got to start somewhere, and the worst culprit is the single-use plastic bag.”

Mr. von Lehsten hinted heavily that he suspects public hearings on the matter to begin at some point in October. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said a public hearing will be held in the first week of December in Southampton, with the hope of implementing the law by Earth Day, April 22, 2015.

After almost 100 municipalities in the Golden State prohibited the use of the synthetic bags, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the country’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags last week.

Sag Harbor CAC Hosts Sustainability Co-Chairman

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Members of the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee on Friday were briefed on everything from the Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex to prospects for a townwide ban on plastic shopping bags.

Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chairman of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, told the small gathering that opposition to the 28-unit Sandy Hollow affordable housing complex, was “more emotional than factual.”

The Southampton Town Board on Thursday, June 12, approved a Planned Development District allowing the apartments to be built after months of contentious hearings that saw widespread opposition to the development from neighbors.

Mr. von Lehsten said the sustainabilty committee supported the project but added that housing it would provide was a small drop in the bucket considering  the vast shortage of affordable housing in Southampton.

The town board’s unanimous decision in support “was not a political decision, but an essential one,” he said.

“You can never ever have a project where everyone is happy,” said Mr. von Lehsten. “The town council, I can say without reservation, put a lot of work into making sure everything was covered.”

CAC members said they were interested in learning about the Sandy Hollow project because of the need for affordable housing Sag Harbor.

“This is something that could be placed in Sag Harbor,” said John Lindner, the CAC’s co-chairman. “We have $2 million from Bulova. If we had a direction for that, we could say here is a builder, here’s something that worked. We can do the same thing.”

Committee members also queried Mr. von Lehsten on the status of Sand Land, a sand mine and mulching operation on Millstone Road in Noyac, which has come into the crosshairs of the Noyac Civic Council because of concerns that its operations could be polluting the groundwater.

Mr. von Lehsten said a court decision ordering the company to curtail much of its operations had been overturned and it is now operating legally. He said at this point, it is up to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure that the operation does not violate the terms of its permits.

Mr. von Lehsten also explained that the sustainability committee is working on a climate action plan for the town that would recognize the threat of global warming and offer ideas for combating it and working on ways to lessen groundwater pollution from septic systems.

He praised East Hampton Town’s recently enacted goal to provide 100 percent of the community’s electricity need with renewable sources by 2020, even if he did think it ambitious.
“If they could get 50 percent by 2020, it would be a fantastic success,” he said.

Mr. von Lehsten also said the sustainability committee was working on getting the town to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, as East Hampton and Southampton villages have already done.

An estimated 23 million plastic bags are used in town each year, he said, with only a fraction being recycled. The committee agreed it would throw its support behind a plastic bag ban. “It’s a foregone conclusion,” Mr. von Lehsten said. “Why can’t we be on the forefront and not behind?”