You may have heard the Village of Atlantic Beach, NY passed an anti-plastic-bag law last week.
You might be surprised to hear we are not cheering. It calls for a ban on all except “biodegradable” checkout bags.
We’re sure the Village are well intended. It sounds great… except there is actually no such thing as biodegradable plastic, at least not as you might reasonably expect the word “biodegradable” to mean
This will cause more problems than it solves.
We honor the heartfelt campaign from locals Kevin Kelley and others for a fee or ban on all checkout bags. This “bio” option sounds good on the surface, until you think it through. You then realize it creates unintended consequences and eliminates little single use waste from going into our environment.
Why isn’t it good policy?
Merchants complying with it who care about the viability of, or prefer to avoid confrontation over “biodegradable” plastic bags will likely go to paper, which is worse for the environment overall, except that it biodegrades. It leaves them few good options and puts the problem on them.
Paper will bring merchants’ cost for a bag from 2-3 cents to 12-25 cents. These costs will be passed on to everyone, drastically increasing the current >hidden< bag tax. All shoppers pay, so some can take bags they’re going to throw away.
Increasing merchant costs like this creates financial incentive to not comply with the law. Instead, had they instituted a fee it would reimburse them ONLY for bags used, which people pay for as they take them. Capitalists used to call this “purchasing them” which is what happens under a mandatory fee for all bags. No one loses their freedom of choice. Some devout capitalists insist they’re entitled to a “free” bag everyone else pays for- go figure! The fee simply covers the merchant’s costs of storing and supplying the bag and administering the process as a partner in making a cleaner environment. To make it their problem is bad policy.
From our laypersons “legal” view, based on policy and what hasn’t worked elsewhere, this law provides no definition of “biodegradeable” which the Federal Trade Commission says cannot be used to market plastic materials. At best, it invites debate at the point of sale, skirting the law on the grounds of free speech as to what one might assert “biodegradable” means, or at worst, lawsuits from vested industry interests a small village may not withstand that would vacate the law and cost them to fight.
I’m sure when you hear “biodegradable” any rational person would think that means it just “poof” melts(?) away and harmlessly disappears? Reality is, it just doesn’t. It’s greenwashing to present it as harmless or as a solution to plastic pollution.
According to the FTC, the term #biodegradable can’t be used to market #plastic. It’s inherently misleading to customers because it has no commonly accepted test or definition. #Amazon just settled a lawsuit & will stop selling those bags. #greenwashing☹️
If it’s fast, or when it gets wet, what happens to a bag full of groceries in the rain?
What does it require the user to do (ie: bring to a special biodegrading facility)?
Must bag users separately sort it for a special “bio /composting” pickup (which our municipalities do not have)?
Will they just be thrown out if included in recycling? (yes)
Does it break down in landfill or must it be exposed to air, sun, and/or water (and blow around in the meantime? -most need that). What are you supposed to do, put them on a clothes line to turn into goo?
Once you realize there is no “away”, you cannot really solve any of those problems with a “throwaway” bag of another material. So the best policy also reduces non-plastic alternatives as well, and the solution pushes towards that goal. A fee or ban or both on ALL bags is key to promote the goal: to remove the opportunity for needless items to become pollution and for everyone to bring your own bag, instead.
The Village seem to have their heart in the right place. They also seem to have simultaneously ignored what nearly every environmental organization or good public policy group proposes based on what works elsewhere, sound policy, and scientific data. It concerns us why they came up with this novel idea instead. Is there a new “biodegradable bag lobby” or companies pitching this “solution” to municipalities without discussing all the issues involved? We hope not.
Of course, you can avoid all this yourself. Just bring your own bag Atlantic Beach – we know you got this!!
Our team member and Lynbrook team leader, Susan is helping residents realize just how much plastic bagpollution each person creates in a year. There’s a Nassau proposal to deal with that waste but it’s not even being allowed to be discussed. Does your County Legislator know how YOU feel about it? If not, you need to tell them it’s time to eliminate needless single use checkout bag pollution. It’s easy- just Bring Your Own Bag Nassau.
In response, all editions of the LI Herald ran an editorial this week in favor of action on checkout bag pollution! Click that link to read it.
Great turnout and rally last week! Now its time for you to take the next step!
Thank you to our volunteers, friends and the numerous organizations who attended last week’s hearing in Smithtown and spoke out! Special thanks to Assembly Members Engelbright, Pellegrino, and D’Urso who brought it all together to give Long Island a voice. Without them, the only hearing on offshore drilling in New York would have been 186 miles from the coast, in Albany.
YOU MUST MAKE YOUR COMMENTS HEARD NOW!
The Trump administration wants to open all offshore ocean areas, as close as 3 miles, to off shore oil and gas drilling leases. The comment period is open now for oil and gas exploration environmental considerations.
Every bag you help us give out eliminates 1000 needless checkout bags from ending up in our environment!
If we can give away 1000, it will eliminate 1 million throwaway bags
You can make this real, tangible impact a reality! Check it out at bit.ly/millionbags
A Big THANK YOU to those who have already donated!
With your help we will fill that need and give away appropriate bags, so everyone can participate and bring their own bag, be a steward of our environment, and proud member who protects our community.
The Long Beach checkout bag law takes effect in just 3 weeks!! We are preparing for the festivities around it. If you would like to join our team for the parade and the art build with our allies, please RSVP Here.
Our volunteer team has been going door to door to merchants to help them with the transition to reusable bags, partner with them for any questions and concerns they still have, and find solutions for bag giveaways. Susan and Joanne are pictured with Natalie Dangerfield (center), owner of Random LB. Also helping have been Jo, Karin, Karen, and Stacy. Thanks for your work to get this done!
Though we’re making progress, there just aren’t enough machine washable, grocery size, reusable bags coming available right now to make sure Long Beach smoothly transitions, and we need to make sure there are.
Join our crowdfund in partnership with Georgia Meckes and LI Greenmarket and help us get 1 million bags off the streets.
George Povall, Director of All Our Energy, was honored by Sierra Club Long Island Group as environmentalist of the year for 2016, citing worknon offshore wind and reducing plastic bag pollution.
“I thank Sierra Club Long Island Group for all you do and for all the support you’ve given myself and our organization, All Our Energy. I’m very honored to receive 2016 Environmentalist of the Year award, and very humbled to be recognized with the amazing Beth Fiteni of Green Inside And Out Consulting.”
“This is thanks to the work and dedication of so many people on our team who keep our work going with friendship and dedication,” he said, “and who make positive change a reality! Thank you also to Sally Keller for the spectacular watercolor. A very special day.”
Join our crowdfund in partnership with LI Greenmarket. Donate, and get word out. Every bag you help us give out eliminates 1000 needless checkout bags from ending up in our environment! You can make this real, tangible impact a reality! Check it out at bit.ly/millionbags
A Big THANK YOU to those who have already donated!
With the bag ordinance coming into effect in Long Beach on earth day (4/22/17), there is a huge need for reusable bags that are
1. good quality
3. shopping bag size
4. most eco-friendly material we can afford
5. easy to transport and remember to bring.
We are going to fill that need with your help, and with Earth day events coming up, we need bags to give away so everyone can bring their own bag and be a steward of our environment and proud member of our community.
If we can give out 1000 reusable bags it eliminates 1 million checkout bags.
Together, we do great things. I thank you for your support!