A ban on plastic bags in East Hampton Town could become a reality in the near future.
At the Town Board’s work session on Tuesday, members agreed that it is time to have a serious discussion about whether to limit plastic shopping bags townwide. There is currently a ban on plastic shopping bags at supermarkets in East Hampton and Southampton villages.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said it is likely the town will hold something similar to a symposium when the summer season ends.
“Before I go forward and support such an effort, there needs to be thought and discussion on the Town Board level to discuss if there is any interest in pursing this locally,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Whether this will work well on a townwide basis … is hard to gauge.”
Dieter von Lehsten, the co-chair of the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee, spoke at the meeting, saying someone should take the lead.
“The U.S. alone uses 104 billion plastic bags annually, and it’s growing,” he said. “Southampton Town uses 23 million bags a year. If your board votes for a ban, there will be a domino effect, and everyone else would automatically fall in line.”
Mr. Cantwell said the idea for the ban comes after several meetings with East End supervisors from Southold, Southampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Brookhaven.
Southold Town recently held a meeting that attracted 70 citizens, many of which supported a ban on plastic bags.
According to one of the meeting’s attendees, Bill Toedter, president of the North Fork Environmental Council, there was 100-percent support for the ban at the Southold meeting, which included representatives of the Group for the East End, the North Fork Audubon Society and the North Fork Environmental Council, as well as business owners and residents.
He said the impact of plastic bags is too detrimental not to institute a ban. “They’re photodegradable,” he said, explaining that the bags break into smaller pieces when subjected to sun exposure. “The pieces are found in scallops and mussels now. We are ingesting these things,” he said, urging the town to seriously consider the ban.
Mr. Cantwell said that while the Town Board will put together its own meetings, it would be more effective for the East End to take a stand together.
“The truth is, this is the kind of issue that should be done on the regional, county, Long Island or state level,” Mr. Cantwell said. “If you look at what is happening globally, plastic has a devastating impact on marine life and on the environment. The entire world is being impacted by plastics in a serious way.”