No Plastic, No Problem

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Story by Sara Paul

     On Sun., Mar. 1, a new bag waste reduction law took effect in New York State. The Bag Waste Reduction Law applies to grocery stores, as well as clothing, home improvement, and liquor stores, to name a few.

     On the first day of the official ban, most shoppers commended the law, finding it easy to comply as they have been using reusable bags for some time now.

     At ShopRite of Warwick, Helen Miksits, who has been toting her reusable bags for almost 10 years, said, “I keep bags in both of my cars so that I don’t forget them. I get upset if I forget to bring them.”

     A Warwick resident for 20 years, Miksits comments, “I love it. I think it’s great. We really don’t need all of this plastic.”

     One shopper, however, said he is “not a fan” of the new restrictions.

     “It’s an inconvenience, and there are really a lot of other things that can be banned. It should be your option, your choice,” commented Josh Wehnert, a resident of Vernon, NJ, who was shopping with his family.

     Cecelia Hodgson, a 30 year Warwick resident, had forgotten her bags at home, but was happy to substitute plastic for the paper bags.

     “I usually remember to put my bags in my car… It’s not an inconvenience at all. It’s good for the environment, and we should all be recycling more,” she said.

     Emily Gilliard was shopping in style with her colorful reusable shopping cart and grocery organizer bags.

     “I’ve been using reusable bags for years, when I remember, but I will definitely remember to bring them now,” said Gilliard, a life-long Warwick resident. “It’s one small step in the right direction to help the environment.”

     Over at Peck’s Wine & Spirits in the Village of Warwick, shop associate Emily Iurato reported that the store has never, in its 30 plus years of business, used plastic bags. The store only offers paper bags.

     Emily, daughter of owner Bill Iurato, said that some customers donate plastic bags that can be used by those who need bags with handles, such as elderly customers. The store also sells reusable bags.

     According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), in New York State, over 23 billion plastic bags are typically used each year.

     “Plastic bag usage affects both our communities and environment. Plastic bags can be seen stuck in trees, as litter in our neighborhoods, and floating in our waterways. From the significant recycling and disposal issues they pose to the harm they can do to wildlife, the negative impacts of plastic bags are easily seen,” according to the NYS DEC website.

     Also according to the NYS DEC, “All plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bag) are banned from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax. For sales that are tax exempt, plastic carry out bags are still not allowed to be distributed by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax (unless it is an exempt bag). The law will affect anyone required to collect New York State sales tax, bag manufacturers and consumers…. Some bags are exempt under the law, so plastic bags may still be distributed to consumers in a few specific circumstances, such as a bag used by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs, and produce bags for bulk items such as fruits and vegetables. But as a consumer, you can aid in protecting our environment by using reusable bags as much as possible.”

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