By Mara Certic
A regional ban on single-use plastic bags could be in the cards for the East End of Long Island.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst met last week to discuss a ban on thin plastic bags within the East End towns. Ms. Throne-Holst had previously met with supervisors from Southold, Riverhead, Shelter Island and Brookhaven about the possibility of a regional ban.
At an East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday, August 12, Mr. Cantwell discussed the potential ban with the public, and his fellow board members for the first time. “Today was kind of the kick-off,” said Alex Walter, the East Hampton Town Supervisor’s executive assistant.
According to Mr. Walter, other members of the board agreed they want to look into the ban and try to move in that direction. East Hampton and Southampton Villages both banned single-use plastic bags in 2011, which “has worked out pretty well,” according to Mr. Walter.
Supervisor Cantwell asked the East Hampton Town Litter Committee, Sustainability Committee and Business Alliance to join forces to explore the possibility of this ban and “see what it means for everyone,” Mr. Walter said.
Frank Dalene, chair of the East Hampton Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee, was at Tuesday’s meeting to support the ban. “[Mr. Cantwell] suggested we get together with the Litter Committee, which I have already done,” Mr. Dalene said on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Cantwell asked the Litter and Sustainability committees to hold public outreach and education programs about this issue, Mr. Dalene said. “As far as the Energy Sustainability Committee, we’re in support of it,” he said.
Jennifer Garvey, Ms. Throne-Holst’s Deputy Chief of Staff, said on Tuesday that the Southampton Sustainability Committee have been working on outreach programs and conducting similar research. “There’s an effort to try to coordinate the towns for a regional ban,” she said.
Ms. Throne-Holst has said that a town-wide ban would not have a sufficient effect, and called for a region-wide ban at an East End Supervisors and Mayors Association meeting in April of this year.
According to Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chair of the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee, the Town of Southampton hands out 23 million bags a year. Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera began an educational “bring-your-own-bag” campaign in 2012, which asked residents to pledge to recycle their plastic bags, and distributed reusable bags.
Even still, only 11 percent of plastic bags handed out in Southampton are recycled, according to Mr. von Lehsten.
“We have a gigantic problem,” he said during an interview last month.
“The issue is that the litter goes into the ocean and kills the sea mammals, kills the birds, kills the fish and the sharks.,” he said. “A plastic bag looks like a jellyfish, and so sea turtles eat them.”
Equally concerning are the giant plastic islands that have formed in the centers of turning tides. The 5 Gyres Institute is an organization dedicated to “witness plastic pollution decline in the environment until it is no longer found in the world’s oceans,” according to their website. The 5 Gyres Institute went on a three-week research voyage from Bermuda and Iceland earlier this year to study the plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Gyre. According to the organization’s website, every surface sample collected during the 21-day trip contained plastic.