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Westchester May Become Latest County To Trash Plastic Bags, Foam

Westchester Count is the latest community to consider a ban on single-use plastic bags, like these ones caught in some trees, to reduce environmental pollution.
Westchester Count is the latest community to consider a ban on single-use plastic bags, like these ones caught in some trees, to reduce environmental pollution. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

As people around the globe observe Earth Day on Sunday, Westchester County Legislators Kitley Covill and Nancy Barr are putting their environmental principles into action.

On Thursday,  April 19, they proposed legislation to encourage the use of reusable bags and keep single-use plastic checkout bags out of the county’s streets, landfills and waterways.

The legislation additionally takes aim at polystyrene foam, banning its use in food packing and other kinds of items packed in the county.

“This is the first step toward a goal we all share -- to improve the environment by eliminating the plastic bags that pollute our waterways, clog our sewers, back up our storm drains, endanger our marine life and litter our streets,” said Covill of Katonah.

“This legislation reflects an increasing awareness of how destructive, permanent and unnecessary single-use plastic bags actually are," said Barr, of Rye Brook. “While several municipalities around Westchester already have reusable bag legislation and several others are considering similar laws, it’s time for the County as a whole to join other counties like Suffolk in leading the state and the nation towards a cleaner, more sustainable future for ourselves and for our children."

Last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, as reported here by Daily Voice. State legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright and state Sens. Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger would ban plastic carryout bags and create a 5-cent fee.

Westchester's new Reusable Bag Initiative proposes to eliminate single-use plastic bags for retail checkout. Stores and other sellers will be allowed to provide only heavier-duty reusable bags or bags made of recycled paper. 

Westchester is proposing a fee of no less than 10 cents for every bag provided by a seller. Studies have shown that a fee encourages consumers to bring their own bags, and results in the reduction of waste. To ensure that a new fee is not a burden on people who can’t afford it, SNAP and WIC recipients are exempted under the county proposal.

Also exempted are certain kinds of bags – such as dry cleaner garment covers, thin produce bags and larger bags of the sort used for garbage liners, as well as paper bags used by pharmacies for prescriptions.

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said, “I am grateful to the County Legislators who have taken the initiative to move this important issue forward. I believe legislation that would cover the entire county would be more effective and more easily understood and complied with by both consumers and retailers than a hodgepodge of local regulations.”

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