LETTER: Plastic bag ban on hold

To the Editor:

Dear Lebanon residents and interested others:

The Madison County Solid Waste and Recycling Committee had no choice but to delay moving forward on our proposed local law to ban certain types of thin plastic bags utilized by retail establishments and grocery stores/convenience stores due to plans by Gov. Cuomo to push a statewide law through the state Legislature that would pre-empt any local action we take. So rather than expend funds on legal costs and a SEQR review that could simply be overturned by the state, we will wait and see what kind of solution is recommended by the Governor’s panel which is influenced by the retailers and their lobbyists.

Indicators are it is more likely a statewide fee on plastic bags will emerge rather than a ban since the retail association’s lobbyists have offered to “share revenue” with the state if they get their way. So what should be an environmental protection issue will be turned by Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature into a revenue grab issue.

In short, I anticipate a  potential 10 cent fee on plastic bags to be shared by the retailers and the state. No doubt everyone will want their cut. So the real issue, protecting the environment from these very destructive types of plastic bags will be pre-empted by revenue enhancement also known as another tax. I hope I am wrong and that instead they surprise me with a statewide ban but that remains doubtful. Our committee and county was ready to move forward this month in adopting the local law and over 70 percent of respondents favored it in Madison County.

You can contact our state representatives and voice your support for a staterwide ban as Gov. Cuomo has asked the panel he commissioned to give him a recommendation very soon he intends to push through the state Legislature.  While some retail employers say the fee on plastic bags has reduced use, indicators from our landfill research and others does not indicate this reduces plastic bag use and in fact most people use plastic bags again for garbage or cat litter and most of it ends up in the landfill and the ecosystem and creates problems for wildlife, plugs up culverts and waterways, poisons soil and is unhealthy for all forms of life including human beings.

Retailers have asked for continuity between counties and want a statewide solution. Madison County as poised to join two other counties that have banned these plastic retail bags. We feel we have a very good local law that got rid of a lot of unnecessary exemptions and our goal is to replace plastic with reusable shopping bags and we will continue to promote this. The story is below. As always, your comments are welcome.

Jim Goldstein, Lebanon Supervisor; Chair, Madison County Board of Supervisors Solid Waste and Recycling Committee

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