The Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, also known as the SAVE Committee, have been recognized by the State Department of Environmental Conservation for their work to help protect the environment through a plastic bag ban enacted in Southampton Village.
The SAVE committee was one of eight recipients of the 10th annual award announced last week. According to a press release from the DEC, the winners were selected for their dedication to “innovative programs and outstanding commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility and economic viability.”
This week, Roger Blaugh, co-chairman of the SAVE Committee, said the group was thrilled to hear about the award, noting that there were 32 applicants from across New York State. He added that this is just the beginning for the five-member group, which has been advising other municipalities nationwide on how to implement a similar plastic bag ban.
“We were flabbergasted,” Mr. Blaugh said this week. “I think what it really demonstrates is the reviewers’ willingness to really stay within the criteria that they set out, and you don’t have to be the top science lab at Cornell to get something across. No little community can affect the globe on its own, but if no little communities make the effort, no global effect will be felt. It takes a number of small things that happen to change the world.”
The plastic bag ban was first approved by Southampton Village in April 2011 and went into effect in the village in November of that year. The law applies solely to retail checkout bags. It does not include plastic produce bags or plastic bags larger than 28 by 36 inches. The legislation is also limited to retail stores, sidewalk sales, farmers markets, flea markets and restaurants. It does not include yard sales, tag sales or other sales at homes or by nonprofit organizations.
Retailers have to provide only reusable bags made of cloth or another fabric, durable plastic that is at least 2.25 millimeters thick, or recyclable paper bags that display the words “reusable” or “recyclable” at checkout.
Since the bag ban’s implementation, Mr. Blaugh said, similar initiatives have been undertaken in East Hampton Village, Westchester and Rye, and in parts of Connecticut. Southampton Town is also considering a ban.
“The Village of Southampton has set an example for municipalities and businesses across New York,” the DEC said. “Through a successful campaign that enlisted support from retailers and the entire village community, the village’s ordinance has achieved a 98-percent compliance rate by retailers, restaurants and stores, which translates into the elimination of at least 110,000 plastic shopping bags annually.
“The streets and beaches of the Village of Southampton are no longer littered with plastic bags,” the release continues. “And the quality of the local marine waters has improved significantly.”
This week, Mayor Mark Epley said he is very happy for the group and that it deserves the award for taking the initiative to help the community.
“I am very proud of the SAVE Committee and their success,” he wrote in an email this week. “What is so important about the recognition is the simplicity of the idea. Every community could and should do this, but it takes leadership from a group like SAVE, and we are fortunate to have them.”
“Not only are we recognizing eight outstanding organizations during this milestone event, but we are honoring the collective accomplishments of 52 winners that have been awarded since 2004,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in the release. “These inspiring success stories have created a greater awareness of environmental sustainability and have contributed to a stronger economy through cost-effective innovations.”