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A Bag Law We Just Can’t Support

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.

Bio-debateable.

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.

From plasticbaglaws.org this week:

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☹️

https://resource-recycling.com/plastics/2018/08/15/amazon-settles-biodegradable-claims-case/

Key things to think about “biodegradable”:

  • How long does that breakdown take?
  • Where does that bag go during that time?
  • 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?
  • “..’bio-plastics’ fail to fully biodegrade in the natural environment, as they require processing by an industrial composting facility. A study by the 5 Gyres Institute that tested biodegradability in aquatic conditions shows that bio-plastic straws made from PLA (a plant-based plastic) did not substantially degrade in a 24-month time period at sea” (5Gyres, 2017). https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5522e85be4b0b65a7c78ac96/t/5acbd346562fa79982b268fc/1523307375028/5Gyres_BANlist2.pdf

The Solution

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!!

And the rest of you, too!

Beneath the Surface: Plastic Pollution presentation July 30, 2018

Beneath the Surface

As Part of Plastic Free July, All Our Energy’s Bring Your Own Bag team welcome this presentation featuring Rob DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist at Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. Come learn about our local marine environment and how it is negatively impacted by marine debris. Marine debris, such as littered items like straws and plastic water bottles, “ghost” fishing gear, and any other foreign objects just don’t belong in these natural marine ecosystems. Come learn about the detriments of marine debris, and how you can help us save marine wildlife by monitoring our beaches! Presented in partnership with Center for Science Teaching and Learning, Sierra Club LI Group, and Long Island Community Foundation

Center for Science Teaching and Learning
Tanglewood Preserve
1450 Tanglewood Rd,
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/193565337897284/

Point Lookout Beach Clean Up July 14, 2018

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We’re teaming up with the Town of Hempstead Dept of Conservation and Waterways for this event. It’s Piping Plover season, an endangered bird that nests on our beach. Because they are protected, the town cannot use their machinery to clean up the beach during this nesting season time. So, we’re going to do a manual beach clean up to get keep things tidy, and keep the trash where it belongs, and not on our beach, where it also poses danger for those birds, and all other wildlife as well. All ages welcome with adult supervision.

Please bring your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!

Point Lookout Town Park
1300 Lido Blvd
Point Lookout, NY 11569

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/2150085925210180/

Beach Clean Up – Point Lookout Town Park – July 14, 2018

Beach clean up
We’re teaming up with the Town of Hempstead Dept of Conservation and Waterways for this event. It’s Piping Plover season, an endangered bird that nests on our beach. Because they are protected, the town cannot use their machinery to clean up the beach during this nesting season time. So, we’re going to do a manual beach clean up to get keep things tidy, and keep the trash where it belongs, and not on our beach, where it also poses danger for those birds, and all other wildlife as well. All ages welcome with adult supervision.

Please bring your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!

Point Lookout Town Park
1300 Lido Blvd
Point Lookout, NY 11569

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/2150085925210180/

We made the news, and the editorial board agrees

newspaper
Our team member and Lynbrook team leader, Susan is helping residents realize just how much plastic bag pollution 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.

 

 

East Atlantic Beach Cleanup May 21, 2018

Beach cleaning

Thanks to everyone who came out to help clean the beach in East Atlantic Beach! Thanks to Assemblywoman Melissa “Missy” Miller and Councilman Bruce Blakeman for holding the event.

About 25 people collected 213.9 pounds(!) of trash and marine debris including a full lawn bag of recyclables, 5 full lawn bags of trash and assorted metal items and heavy wood debris.

Thanks to The Town of Hempstead for taking it all to its proper place.

Thanks to our volunteers Joan, Karin and Joanne who helped everyone get it done!

The top item-plastic pieces! Plus lots of balloons, cigarette butts, styrofoam pieces and assorted other items that just do not belong on our beach or in our waters.  Great work everyone!

Help Rockville Centre transition to a reusable bag culture!

All Our Energy’s Bring Your Own Bag Rockville Centre team have been very active to transition Rockville Centre to a reusable bag culture.

Now, you can sign the petition and share it here: allourenergy.com/rvcbags

RVCvols
Our volunteers Shelley and Randy and the whole team have been visiting merchants in Rockville Centre and getting much agreement that a transition to reusable bags would benefit the Village of RVC!

Now it’s time for you to sign the petition and take the pledge, too! Help make it a no-brainer for officials to make the change!

Next, we we show “Bag It” at the Rockville Centre Public Library. heres the facebook event:https://www.facebook.com/events/1658656800859309/

Come check it out!

Village of Sea Cliff Board Meeting Scheduled Dec.11, 2017

Due to snowy conditions on the ground, our Sunday 12/10/17 Sea Cliff “It’s Cool to Care: A Groovy Community Clean Up Walk for the Environment” is postponed. New date coming soon….

BUT…

We are mobilizing our Sea Cliff Team and supporters to attend the December 11, Monday Night Village of Sea Cliff Board Meeting to show support for action on eliminating needless single use bags and becoming a reusable bag culture.

You should join us!
Be there at 7pm, Sea Cliff Village hall,
300 Sea Cliff Ave, Sea Cliff, NY 11579.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our volunteers have been diligently seeking, collecting, including reusable bag use info sheets, and then distributing reusable bag donations from local businesses for other organizations to give away during the holiday season, many going out this week with Thanksgiving meals in them in Long Beach, Sea Cliff and Lynbrook.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Screening of Bag It in Glen Head Nov. 13, 2017

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Join us for a screening of the award winning movie “Bag It” and learn about plastic pollution and your part in stopping it.

Date:Monday, November 13, 2017
Time:7pm
Where:Grassroots Naturally Delicious
AD: 671 Glen Cove Ave, Glen Head, NY 11545

In the film, Jeb Berrier, a regular American man, makes a pledge to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store and has his life completely changed. Take the journey with Jeb and find out if your life is too plastic.

Bring your own reusable drink container for refreshments!