QUEENSBURY — Warren County supervisors have put the brakes on a proposed local law to ban the use of one-time plastic bags, but the board wants to seek public input at its night meeting scheduled in June to hear what the public thinks about the issue.
The board’s Legislative & Rules Committee opted last week to send letters to state legislators and a state task force that is looking into the issue of plastic bags, and set a “public hearing” for June 14 to discuss ways to address concerns about single-use plastic bags.
Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said the board would like to hear how those who use bags feel about the different options to curb or eliminate their use.
“Public input is needed here. We need their ideas, we need their preferences,” Strough said. “You need to get the community on board with all of this.”
Bolton Supervisor Ronald Conover, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, likened the situation to the placing of a deposit on bottles and cans decades ago and the resulting growing pains. He said a statewide solution is needed.
Glens Falls Third Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer, who has helped push the issue, said recycling of bags is not an environmentally friendly process, and the public sentiment she has heard is in favor of an outright ban.
“Almost getting rid of them altogether in my mind is a better idea,” she said.
Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Matt Sokol said he wanted to see what other communities were doing, and he wanted to hear public input on the issue. He said he did not want to see the county “pushed” into action without a thorough review.
The committee has heard from a variety of speakers, including a representative of an environmental program who met with county supervisors on the Environmental Concerns & Real Property Committee in February to push for action.
Stephen Acquario, director of the New York State Association of Counties, said the bags cause environmental problems that many don’t realize, not only fouling the environment but also hurting efforts to recycle other materials because people mix plastic bags in with other recyclables.
But he said the state appears ready to look at the bag issue.
“The state is going to take this up. It really is a state issue,” he said.
Mona Golub, for Price Chopper, said bags have been banned in some of the municipalities where the company has stores, such as Madison County and parts of western Massachusetts. The company gives shoppers 3 cents per transaction for use of reusable bags or boxes, but fewer than 10 percent of customers use them. She said only about 50 percent of bags are brought back to recycling bins in stores.
Government, retailers and consumers have to work together to address the issue, she added.
“There are so many factors to think about and understand,” Golub said. “This should be a movement where we as citizens can take pride in our progress.”
Maston Sansom, vice president of government relations for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, said paper bags aren’t the solution, as they are viewed as more environmentally problematic than plastic in many ways.
He said the alliance favors charging a fee to store customers who take plastic bags, with some of the collected money going to municipalities for programs to distribute reusable bags.
“This problem cannot be solved just by banning the bag,” Sansom said.