For almost two months, retailers in New York state, including Columbia and Greene counties, have been preparing consumers for the ban on single-use plastic retail bags that begins Sunday.
It’s going to be a hectic transition at first, but it will get smoother as time goes on, and it won’t take that much time.
In 2018, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors discussed banning single-use plastic retail bags, but decided to wait for a state law to be passed. Some surrounding counties, including Ulster, enacted their own plastic bag ban law well ahead of the state’s schedule. In the long run, it will be good for everybody.
To help Columbia County residents manage the changeover, 3rd Ward Hudson Supervisor Michael Chameides organized a tote-bag collection for donation at the Hudson Area Library, 51 N. Fifth St. More than 75 bags have been collected. The Columbia County Department of Social Services is distributing the donated bags at its office at 25 Railroad Ave. Social Services also purchased around 200 bags to distribute.
As we see it, there are weaknesses in the law’s presentation. Most stores will charge 5 cents for paper bags; others are charging 15 cents for paper bags with handles. In some cases, a 3-cent discount consumers used to get for bringing their own bags will be eliminated. These charges seem a way to add to the price of a visit to the store and should have been thought out more carefully. The good news is that buying bags should be a one-and-done deal. The state Department of Environmental Conservation encourages consumers to keep reusable bags in their cars, purses and commuting bags. Stores will not prevent customers from using a bag of any kind that has been brought for the purpose of carrying goods, so plastic bags saved up at home can be reused. This is good advice, but it will take some time for customers to remember to bring bags into a store when they’re accustomed only to carrying them out.
And now it’s time to look at the bigger picture. More than 23 billion plastic bags are typically used each year in New York state. Multiply that by 50 states and you have an environmental crisis of unprecedented scale. Plastic bags don’t biodegrade over time. If prehistoric man used plastic bags, they would still be around today. They choke landfills, clog beaches and kill plankton, fish and sea birds by geometric progression.
The death of the plastic bag is at hand. Let’s face that fact. Reusable is the word. Be patient, change habits and we will get through it.