MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The Village of Mamaroneck is the second in Westchester to ban single-use plastic bags, with the law set to go into effect April 1. This could be part of a wider local effort as Rye officially banned plastic bags in 2011 and Tuckahoe held a public hearing on the matter last week.
The new law, passed in August 2012 by the Board of Trustees, bans plastic bags from being handed out by retailers at checkout. Stores will be required to provide recyclable paper bags or reusable bags, and violators could face a fine up to $150.
Recyclable paper bags must also meet the new law’s specifications. A “recyclable paper bag” must contain no old-growth fiber, be 100 percent recyclable, contain a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content and have the words "reusable" and "recyclable" on the outside of the bag.
A reusable bag is considered a bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple uses. This bag can be made out of cloth, fabric or plastic, if it is at least 2.25 mils thick.
According to the Clean Air Council, Americans use approximately one billion plastic non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags each year, only 12 percent of which were recycled in 2010.
"Almost every environmental consequence has a human health consequence, from wild fires to global warming to the use of plastics," said Patti Wood, of Grassroots Environmental Education. "Every little piece of plastic that ends up in the oceans, which is a great amount, and plastics persist because they don't break down easily. As plastic photodegrades, it becomes a magnet for toxic chemicals like persistent organic pollutants."
Eliminating plastic bags could have a big effect on a local level -- old bags won't hang from tree branches, clog gutters and fill dumps.
"It has to do with a matter of education and changing the habits of the people in the community," Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum said.
"Any effort to reduce plastics in our environment is huge," Wood said. "It's really a heroic action that our communities are taking."
The Village of Larchmont is holding a public hearing on this proposed law on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m.
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