Tag Archive | "paper bags"

Paper or Cloth? Southampton Town Seeks to Ban Plastic Bags

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By Claire Walla

“In my opinion, we’re going to look back at this and question why we didn’t do this earlier,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said to her fellow council members.

Throne-Holst was speaking at a town board work session last Friday, December 9 in reference to a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags throughout the town of Southampton.

“I think the entire world is moving in this direction,” added Throne-Holst, a stanch proponent of the measure.

The proposal to ban plastic bags in the town of Southampton comes nearly six months after the first work session was held on the matter. In that time, the town’s sustainability committee chairman Tip Brolin sought more information from the town’s business community and consumers, specifically addressing concerns many businesses initially expressed regarding the high price of replacing plastic with recyclable paper.

The town’s proposed plastic ban initially would effectively ban single-use plastic bags less than two mils thick, and less than 28 inches by 36 inches in size. Smaller plastic bags — like those used to hold fish and produce — would not be affected by the ban.

The legislation also originally included provisions that would have allowed stores to carry paper bags made of 40 percent recyclable materials, a stipulation that essentially mirrors similar legislation already enacted in Westport, Conn. (Most grocery stores use paper bags that are made of 30 percent recyclable materials.)

“I do generally agree with the fact that we need to get greener,” said Debbie Longnecker of Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road.

However, she expressed some concern with the added price tag associated with purchasing reusable bags and paper bags.

At one point, she explained, “We gave reusable bags away. However, not everyone brings them back.”

She said the store’s winter clientele is more inclined to get into the habit of consistently bringing reusable bags when they shop. But she said it’s a different story with the summer people who are in the area for a short period of time and less inclined to bring their own bags when they shop.

“I think a lot more planning has to be done before [this law is enacted],” she added. “There needs to be a cost-effective alternative before you say to people: You can’t do this anymore.”

Partially quelling Longnecker’s concern, Brolin explained last week that the proposed legislation will in fact allow stores to use the less expensive paper bags made of 30 percent recyclable materials. Plus, he added that follow-up surveys with nearly 1,700 shoppers in Westport, Conn. revealed that 53 percent were consistently using reusable bags after the plastic ban went into effect. Brolin compared this number to the nearby Norwalk/Wilton area — which has not implemented a plastic bag ban — where the number is closer to 10 percent.

Should Southampton Town decide to implement legislation that bans single-use plastic bags, it would follow in the footsteps of both Southampton Village, which banned plastic last spring, and East Hampton Village, which adopted similar legislation last month. The legislation proposed for the town would essentially be the same as that adopted in the Village of Southampton, except that paper bags would only have to be made with 30 percent recyclable materials as opposed to 40 percent.

Before adopting the legislation, Brolin reported that the town initially discussed promoting the use of reusable shopping bags by educating the community on the harms of single-use plastic bags — the fact that most of the bags are not recycled and are piling up in landfills and littering the oceans, thereby potentially harming at least 260 different sea species. However, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that after a lackluster response from the business community, she feels the best tactic at this point is to adopt the legislation and spend six months before the policy is enacted making residents aware of this change.

According to Liz Plouff, the town’s sustainability coordinator, education will come in the way of press releases and conferences, as well as a partnership with SeaTV, the town government television channel. In addition, Plouff has suggested the town hand-out reusable bags to town residents at no charge. She said the town could finance this measure by getting local stores and businesses to pay a small fee in exchange for getting their logos printed on the bags.

The town board will hold its first official public hearing on the proposed plastic bag legislation on Thursday, December 22.

Leaf Program Leaves Landfills in the Dumps

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By Claire Walla

The Southampton Town leaf pick-up program has changed this fall in an attempt to streamline and speed up the whole process. But Southampton Town Board members now worry that the new program may put a strain on another town department.

“It seems the costs are being shifted,” said Councilwoman Bridget Fleming at a meeting last Friday, October 21. “That’s why I called this work session.”

Board members heard from the town’s Director of Facilities Management, Christine Fetten, who expressed concern that this year’s leaf pick-up program would create more work for her employees.

In an attempt to make the leaf pick-up process more efficient in the fall, Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor created a program that eliminates brush from the fall pick-up routine. Instead, residents will be issued vouchers that will allow them to bring sticks and small branches to one of three town service stations in Westhampton, Hampton Bays and North Sea. Residents will still be able to put their leaves by the side of the road for pick up, but they will be required to bundle them into town provided paper bags, rather than leave them in loose as has been done in years past.

With more residents and private carters bringing brush and loose leaves to the town’s waste disposal facilities, Fetten said employees at each site will need to spend more time monitoring these drop-offs. Employees will also have to physically hall the materials left by residents and private landscapers from the drop-off site to the compost pile site at the back of the facility. (Only town employees are permitted on site.) This, she said, will require more workers.

So far, Fetten said she already expects to see about a 176-hour shortfall of man-hours each week. While she said her department wouldn’t be forced to hire any more full-time employees, it will have to dip into the emergency funds set aside for part-time hirees.

“We’ve never tackled this kind of a program before,” Fetten said on Friday. “One of our great concerns is we have a limited number of payloaders, and they’ve been operating non-stop since [Tropical Storm Irene].”

In an interview on Monday, Fetten further explained that her department will try to work with the vehicles it has on hand, and will only resort to leasing a more powerful yard truck should the work load demand it.

The other obstacle comes by way of the paper bags residents will be required to use to gather leaves.

“In order to make this an effective program — for which these bags are composted — you have to water them,” Fetten continued.

Bio-degradable paper bags are being required this year because Gregor — who couldn’t make it to last Friday’s meeting and was unavailable this week for comment — has previously explained that using bags will quicken the collection process for highway department personnel.

But Fetten said the durability of these two-ply paper bags makes them difficult to compost without extra manpower. While she said it’s “not totally improbable” to use water at the service stations to break down the bags, it would be problematic.

In a meeting with the highway superintendent earlier this month — shortly after she learned the details of the new leaf pick-up program —Fetten said she requested that highway department personnel physically rip the bags open when the leaves are taken to the service station. She said the processors on site may not otherwise be powerful enough to break the paper bags down. As of this week, Fetten said she has yet to revisit the issue with Gregor.

“We really didn’t anticipate this,” Fetten continued. “ But I believe that we might be able to work certain things around … We might have to dip more into our over-time or part-time budgets, but I think we’ll be able to manage [the work load] within the budget we have right now.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst expressed concern that Fetten may have to dip into monies that have been set aside for emergencies, when the department is forced to take on extra labor: like during last year’s excess of snow storms and this year’s Tropical Storm Irene.

“The loose-leaf program that was proposed [in years past] seemed to work very well,” she added, but “at this point, it would be too late to modify the information that’s been submitted to the public.”

In addition to a leaf forum Gregor held last spring, fliers about this year’s fall program have already been distributed.

Fetten continued, “I don’t know how to make the program better at this point.”