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.
With the proposed Nassau checkout bag legislation being kept from even being discussed at the county legislature, our team joined other groups to speak out to let the issue be heard.
So proud 6 volunteers from the All Our Energy team went to speak! Thanks to Susan, Joanne, Karin, Shelley,Lori,Leslie and Mara!
Thanks To Sea Cliff Village Trustee Epstein for joining us, too!
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.
So-so State Of The State.
Yes, we have proposed deadlines for procurement of offshore wind, likely off Long Beach for 2018, and 2019. These are just PROPOSALS so don’t get too excited. Pressure and public support will still be needed to make this a reality, as NY does not have a good track record on delivering what is promised in the already too long time frame given.
Overall, it honestly could be much better and we honestly need much better. We will continue to push for more, faster, and to stop any disastrous investments in fossil fuels our children will be saddled with the financial and climate costs for.
The good news is yes- we CAN do something about all these issues, you can help be the change. We are making huge strides in cleaning up our towns and waterways and helping everyday people become better aware of environmental issues and become involved in them, on our reusable bag campaigns, which are succeeding in making change.
REGULATORY ROLLBACK BY FEDS
We knew it would NOT be good news when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced a briefing yesterday on 30 minutes notice.
Apparently your ocean (Yes, including the Atlantic) is being made great again for gas and oil drilling, spills, pollution and everything else that comes with it- huge rollbacks in regulations by executive orders, effective immediately and revoking previous moderated plans.
We will be opposing this at every possible turn and will be joining our allies to bring the public together to stop this. https://www.boem.gov/National-Program/
NYC TRYING TO TAP GROUNDWATER SHARED WITH LI
NYC is moving forward with plans to reopen their access to Nassau County’s drinking water, including the fragile, last remaining source for Long Beach and several other towns. They plan to effectively remove 60% the amount that Nassau does daily. This will have a huge impact.
See article: NYC seeks renewal of permit to tap groundwater shared with LI
In spite of what we were working towards this fall, there now doesn’t seem to be any hearings needed, so our petition may be one of only a few ways to stand up against this.
YOUR VOICE WILL BE IMPORTANT TO GETTING OUR WATER PROTECTED. CONSIDERING ONLY 28 PEOPLE INCLUDING OFFICIALS WENT TO THE JUNE HEARING, DO NOT ASSUME YOUR CONCERNS ARE BEING HEARD.
If you haven’t already, please sign and share our petition here. If you have, please share it now.
What a 2017 its been! Now we build, for a big 2018.
From renewable energy advocacy and expansion, to climate actions and protection of our local environment, we did so much together with you.
And we’ve done it all through the incredible efforts of our volunteer teams. Your support provides the materials and supplies that they need to make change a reality.
As 2017 began, we built community.
Our volunteers reached out to over 150 merchants about the Long Beach Bag law- work no one else would do.
We turned out 80% of the comments on the LIPA & PSEG LI revised plan to include more renewables.
Then we put our fundraising efforts into machine washable reusable bags for those who needed them, instead of our operations…
Because it all needed to be DONE.
None would have happened without our team.
SPRING CLIMATE CHANGED
We helped kick off the Long Beach Bag Law with help from so many on Earth Day.
The next week we helped 1000 successfully join the People’s Climate March in Long Beach with our partner organizations.
With those partners, we organized the LI Climate Summit, where over 200 attendees workshopped on ways to address climate change.
SUMMER OF SUN
With help from our friends at EmPower Solar we launched a far-reaching talk on Long Island community solar.
We helped drive public turnout to hear about the Off Shore Wind Farm off Long Beach
Our Nassau-County-wide reusable bag campaign kicked off in Sea Cliff and Lynbrook, including building teams of local volunteers.
We joined in the Long Beach edition of International Coastal Clean Up day with many incredible partners.
FALL TO NOW
We brought together many partners for the local screening of “Ocean Frontiers 3”, with an amazing panel discussion.
Our Sea Cliff Team made huge strides meeting 600 petition signers in one day, with additional events now involving the Village of Sea Cliff.
We helped remove over 300 pounds of recyclables & trash with the Town of Hempstead at Lido Town Beach
We raised another 900 bags donated from companies, making the total given away this year to over 1600 so everyone can bring their own bag!!
As we go into the new year, support is needed for All Our Energy’s important work to continue into 2018. As a 501c3 organization, all donations to All Our Energy are tax deductible.