You may have heard the Village of Atlantic Beach, NY passed an anti-plastic-bag law last week.
You might be surprised to hear we are not cheering. It calls for a ban on all except “biodegradable” checkout bags.
We’re sure the Village are well intended. It sounds great… except there is actually no such thing as biodegradable plastic, at least not as you might reasonably expect the word “biodegradable” to mean
This will cause more problems than it solves.
We honor the heartfelt campaign from locals Kevin Kelley and others for a fee or ban on all checkout bags. This “bio” option sounds good on the surface, until you think it through. You then realize it creates unintended consequences and eliminates little single use waste from going into our environment.
Why isn’t it good policy?
Merchants complying with it who care about the viability of, or prefer to avoid confrontation over “biodegradable” plastic bags will likely go to paper, which is worse for the environment overall, except that it biodegrades. It leaves them few good options and puts the problem on them.
Paper will bring merchants’ cost for a bag from 2-3 cents to 12-25 cents. These costs will be passed on to everyone, drastically increasing the current >hidden< bag tax. All shoppers pay, so some can take bags they’re going to throw away.
Increasing merchant costs like this creates financial incentive to not comply with the law. Instead, had they instituted a fee it would reimburse them ONLY for bags used, which people pay for as they take them. Capitalists used to call this “purchasing them” which is what happens under a mandatory fee for all bags. No one loses their freedom of choice. Some devout capitalists insist they’re entitled to a “free” bag everyone else pays for- go figure! The fee simply covers the merchant’s costs of storing and supplying the bag and administering the process as a partner in making a cleaner environment. To make it their problem is bad policy.
From our laypersons “legal” view, based on policy and what hasn’t worked elsewhere, this law provides no definition of “biodegradeable” which the Federal Trade Commission says cannot be used to market plastic materials. At best, it invites debate at the point of sale, skirting the law on the grounds of free speech as to what one might assert “biodegradable” means, or at worst, lawsuits from vested industry interests a small village may not withstand that would vacate the law and cost them to fight.
I’m sure when you hear “biodegradable” any rational person would think that means it just “poof” melts(?) away and harmlessly disappears? Reality is, it just doesn’t. It’s greenwashing to present it as harmless or as a solution to plastic pollution.
According to the FTC, the term #biodegradable can’t be used to market #plastic. It’s inherently misleading to customers because it has no commonly accepted test or definition. #Amazon just settled a lawsuit & will stop selling those bags. #greenwashing☹️
If it’s fast, or when it gets wet, what happens to a bag full of groceries in the rain?
What does it require the user to do (ie: bring to a special biodegrading facility)?
Must bag users separately sort it for a special “bio /composting” pickup (which our municipalities do not have)?
Will they just be thrown out if included in recycling? (yes)
Does it break down in landfill or must it be exposed to air, sun, and/or water (and blow around in the meantime? -most need that). What are you supposed to do, put them on a clothes line to turn into goo?
Once you realize there is no “away”, you cannot really solve any of those problems with a “throwaway” bag of another material. So the best policy also reduces non-plastic alternatives as well, and the solution pushes towards that goal. A fee or ban or both on ALL bags is key to promote the goal: to remove the opportunity for needless items to become pollution and for everyone to bring your own bag, instead.
The Village seem to have their heart in the right place. They also seem to have simultaneously ignored what nearly every environmental organization or good public policy group proposes based on what works elsewhere, sound policy, and scientific data. It concerns us why they came up with this novel idea instead. Is there a new “biodegradable bag lobby” or companies pitching this “solution” to municipalities without discussing all the issues involved? We hope not.
Of course, you can avoid all this yourself. Just bring your own bag Atlantic Beach – we know you got this!!
As Part of Plastic Free July, All Our Energy’s Bring Your Own Bag team welcome this presentation featuring Rob DiGiovanni, founder and chief scientist at Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. Come learn about our local marine environment and how it is negatively impacted by marine debris. Marine debris, such as littered items like straws and plastic water bottles, “ghost” fishing gear, and any other foreign objects just don’t belong in these natural marine ecosystems. Come learn about the detriments of marine debris, and how you can help us save marine wildlife by monitoring our beaches! Presented in partnership with Center for Science Teaching and Learning, Sierra Club LI Group, and Long Island Community Foundation
Center for Science Teaching and Learning
1450 Tanglewood Rd,
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
We’re teaming up with the Town of Hempstead Dept of Conservation and Waterways for this event. It’s Piping Plover season, an endangered bird that nests on our beach. Because they are protected, the town cannot use their machinery to clean up the beach during this nesting season time. So, we’re going to do a manual beach clean up to get keep things tidy, and keep the trash where it belongs, and not on our beach, where it also poses danger for those birds, and all other wildlife as well. All ages welcome with adult supervision.
Please bring your reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!
Point Lookout Town Park
1300 Lido Blvd
Point Lookout, NY 11569
Over 20 people have volunteered so far to share their stories and tips on our blog website.
How is your Plastic Free July going? It’s HARD! but so worth it. Our incredible volunteers are sharing their stories to help others find ways they too can be plastic free for July.. and every day.
Check out the corrected link here: liplasticfreejuly2018.wordpress.com/blog
Already a post every day so far, from Diana Ihmann, Randall Sorscher, Karin Johnson, Shelley Goldman, Jayne Paskoff, Gordon Howard, Marion Flomehaft and Nancy Levy.. so far!
What’s your story? What are your tips? Will you join our local edition of the international event and give up single-use plastic this July?
Here are our Plastic Free July events (see other posted blogs for full info):
July 14 Join the Beach Clean Up in Point Lookout
July 23 Bag It special screening at the Rockville Centre Recreation Center, and
July 30 “Beneath The Surface” event with Atlantic Marine Conservation Society in association with event hosts Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Tanglewood Preserve, and with Sierra Club LI Group and Long Island Community Foundation.
The South Hempstead Civic Association hosts All Our Energy’s Bring Your Own Bag Nassau campaign for a free public screening of the light-hearted and funny, award-winning film Bag It. Come find out of your life is too plastic (hint- it totally is!)
South Hempstead Firehouse
555 May St,
South Hempstead, NY 11550
Our team member and Lynbrook team leader, Susan is helping residents realize just how much plastic bagpollution each person creates in a year. There’s a Nassau proposal to deal with that waste but it’s not even being allowed to be discussed. Does your County Legislator know how YOU feel about it? If not, you need to tell them it’s time to eliminate needless single use checkout bag pollution. It’s easy- just Bring Your Own Bag Nassau.
In response, all editions of the LI Herald ran an editorial this week in favor of action on checkout bag pollution! Click that link to read it.
With the proposed Nassau checkout bag legislation being kept from even being discussed at the county legislature, our team joined other groups to speak out to let the issue be heard.
So proud 6 volunteers from the All Our Energy team went to speak! Thanks to Susan, Joanne, Karin, Shelley,Lori,Leslie and Mara!
Thanks To Sea Cliff Village Trustee Epstein for joining us, too!
Can Rockville Centre address single use plastic and other checkout bag pollution?
We’re going to find out!
Join Us Tonight, January 9, 2018 at 7pm to start the discussion
Turn Of The Corkscrew
110 N Park Ave,
Rockville Centre, New York 11570
We hope you can make it and become part of the movement as we officially start our grassroots reusable bag campaign in Rockville Centre. Help us eliminate needless single use plastic and other checkout bag pollution so we do not continue to harm our environment.
Have friends there? Know someone there we should talk to? Just reply and let us know!