UCL Report: “Bring Your Own Bag Act”

One of the proposed laws that currently being considered by the Ulster County Legislature is Proposed Local Law Number 10 Of 2018, A Local Law Promoting The Use Of Reusable Bags And Regulating The Use Of Plastic Carryout Bags And Recyclable Paper Carryout Bags, otherwise known as the “Bring Your Own Bag Act.” This Local Law is the culmination of a decade of discussion in the Legislature. It would ban the use of all single-use plastic bags and require stores to charge 5-cents for recyclable paper bags provided to customers. Restaurants located outside of grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores or foodmarts would be exempt. Legislator Tracey Bartels (D-Gardiner) sponsored the law, and Dave Donaldson (D-Kingston) co-sponsored.

At a public hearing in June, 19 community members spoke in favor of passage, and three opposed.

On July 16, the Laws and Rules Committee had voted to block the legislation from moving forward to a vote by the full legislature. The vote was Donaldson, Heppner and Joe Maloney voting to move the forward; Roberts and Haynes against. Chairman Ronk, who has the right to sit in on any committee and vote (which he does whenever he thinks his vote will be needed) cast the deciding vote against. A majority is required for a resolution to pass.

Bartels and Donaldson were able to force the bill onto the Legislature’s August agenda by executing a “petition to discharge,” a procedural move that allows a legislator to bring a measure that has been blocked in committee to the floor of the full legislature by gathering the signatures of eight legislators on a petition. This move does not guarantee a final vote for or against passage— only consideration by the full body. In fact, that is what happened. Bartels, the bill’s sponsor, asked that it be referred back to the Energy and Environment Committee for further work. Look for it on the September meeting agenda.

According to the EPA, between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags worldwide are used each year, with less than 5% of those recycled. They end up on our streets, clog our waterways and sewers, and the chemicals they are made with leach into our water and our food, ending up in our breast milk, semen, saliva and urine. Environmental groups estimate that tens of thousands of animals, including whales, birds, seals and turtles, die every year as a result of mistaking plastic bags for food.

Other people in other places have learned to manage without single-use plastic bags, including five other municipalities in N.Y., the city of Chicago, the states of California and Hawaii, and numerous countries around the world.

Please, for the sake of all of us in Ulster County, in New York State, in the country, the world and on the planet, take a stand on this bill.

Check the agenda for the September meeting of the UCL, or check back here, for an update on this important legislation. Plan to sign up to speak or just show up and lend your support.

UPDATE: On September 20, the Ulster County Legislature passed, by a vote of 15 to 7, Resolution No. 283.2: A Local Law Promoting The Use Of Reusable Bags And Regulating The Use Of Plastic Carryout Bags And Recyclable Paper Carryout Bags.

Ulster County stores will be prohibited from using plastic bags and will charge at least 5 cents for each paper bag they provide customers, which they can keep— IF Mike Hein signs it.

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