With the passage of its 2019 budget bill, New York State will become the second in the nation to prohibit so-called single-use shopping bags. Southampton Village was the first in the state to do so; East Hampton Village followed in the summer of 2011. From the East End, the idea took deep root. California became the large-scale pioneer three years later.
Depending on how you look at it, thin plastic bags represent an outsize contribution to fossil fuel-related greenhouse gas emissions and alone account for about 12 percent of total plastic waste, as calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Many end up in waterways, where they can be mistaken for food by endangered sea turtles and whales. And though they might degrade in the wild over time, tiny plastic particles essentially remain forever.
Compared to a plastic bag used just once and thrown away, however, supermarket meat, per pound, is about 25 times worse. The authors of a recent analysis of more than 40,000 farms and processing plants concluded that even the lowest-impact animal products generally exceed those of vegetable substitutes.
There were lots of caveats, sure, but on balance, as simple a step as reducing consumers’ preference for bags of all sorts, as was seen after Suffolk imposed a 5-cent fee on carryout bags, pays off big. A report issued last month estimated that 1.1 billion fewer plastic bags were used in the county last year. And what is more, paper bags were reduced by more than 75 percent as more customers started taking their own bags or skipping them altogether.
We have long been of a mind that if you can carry an item to the checkout in your hands, you can manage to get it the rest of the way home that way, too. It is gratifying to realize this now statewide movement began here in the Villages of East Hampton and Southampton.