Law targets plastic bags

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It would be illegal in Suffolk County to place plastic bags stuffed with advertising material onto streets, lawns and driveways under a measure recently introduced by Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher.

“I walk every day and I pick up those plastic bags that collect along the curbs,” commented Ms. Viloria-Fisher in an interview last week, explaining why she had authored the measure. She said she regularly picks up plastic bags containing advertising material when she takes her daily mile-and-a-quarter walks, and brings them back to her East Setauket home.

“I recycle the paper, if it has not dissolved into oatmeal, and put the plastic bags in with the plastics to be recycled,” she said.

With the county recently enacting a law aimed at reducing the distribution of plastic bags by supermarkets and “trying to do something about litter,” she said, “we shouldn’t have plastic bags being thrown onto the street.”

Her bill, now in committee, is titled “A Local Law to Prevent Litter by Restricting the Distribution of Plastic Encased Advertising Matter.”

The measure, she noted, is not aimed at newspapers delivered in plastic bags. “I never wanted to deny First Amendment rights, but this is unsolicited advertising.”

In the bill’s text, she declares that “certain individuals and businesses deliver advertising handbills, circulars, flyers and other unsolicited print materials in plastic bags onto streets, driveways and lawns of our Suffolk County communities.” The text continues: “Many Suffolk County residents complain about the proliferation of unsolicited advertising materials that are thrown onto their property, usually wrapped in plastic bags. The circulars and the plastic bags often end up as litter causing visual blight and damage to wildlife and the environment.”

“The purpose of this local law,” she states in the bill, “is to prohibit persons from throwing, casting or dropping unsolicited advertising handbills, circulars, flyers and brochures, wrapped in plastic, onto the streets, lawns and driveways of Suffolk County.”

Under the measure, it would be a violation punishable by a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for 15 days—“or both for each offense”—to distribute the materials in such a way.

The author also states in the bill that “this prohibition shall not be constructed to regulate the delivery of such matter by the United States Postal Service” or to bar “affixing or placing the advertising matter on or in close proximity to a residential dwelling in a manner that will prevent the matter from being scattered.”

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