On behalf of the CAC, this is to update you on the deliberations of the CAC on the environmental impacts of using disposable plastic and paper bags. The CAC has been studying this for a number of months. We have reviewed and discussed a number of articles and laws of other localities, and have held a joint meeting with the Tarrytown CAC who is also considering this issue. Our tentative conclusion is that a fee for all disposable bags, both plastic and paper, is proper and the right way to go environmentally.
The CAC has considered a number of other alternatives, but found most to be "faux" solutions or impracticable. For example, to simply ban plastic bags would be to encourage the use of paper bags, but paper bags themselves have a number of adverse environmental issues. Paper bags obviously necessitate the cutting of trees, which remove CO2 and other pollutants from the air and which provide protection against flooding and soil erosion. Less obviously, paper bags require a huge amount of electricity to produce. Greg Theisen located a recent study by the United Kingdom government which concluded that paper bags have to be used 3 - 4 times to be environmentally neutral.
As you know, New York State imposes a tax on beverages sold in containers under the NYS Returnable Container Act. According to the website of the NYS Dept. of Taxation and Finance, NYS gets 80% of the unrefunded fees and the retailer gets to keep 20%.
What the CAC is considering proposing is the Town would impose a fee for large retailers giving out disposable bags, either plastic or paper bags, and a 50%/50% split with the retailers. We had not arrived at an amount of the fee, but the 10 cents per bag fee proposed by New York City would seem in the ballpark.
The CAC further proposes that the 50% which goes to the Town be dedicated for use by the Town Board for environmental purposes, such as environmental improvements within the Town and any costs associated with administering a new Town tree law, upon consultation with the CAC.
Like NYC, we would propose limiting the fee to larger retailers, at least initially. We would also propose having certain exemptions, such as for those paying with food stamps and for restaurants.
We note that, under the present system, the costs of disposable bags is part of retailers' overhead. Both environmental sensitive consumers and consumers who are not bear the burden of the environmental damaging practice of using plastic and paper bags, as that overhead cost is built into the pricing of what is sold to all consumers. Under fee proposals, the cost of using environmentally damaging bags is borne by those who use them. This seems fair to the CAC. And, hopefully, over time, the fee will cause consumers to think about this practice and the overall use of plastic and paper bags will go down.
The CAC analysis is not complete at this time. The CAC anticipates finalizing its Report in September. We would be interested in any thoughts you have and in knowing whether you would support a CAC proposal along these lines. Any feedback you would like to give the CAC prior to our next meeting, Sept. 12, would be appreciated.
Mike Sigal for the CAC
The Conservation Advisory Council requests that feedback be provided by September 10th so members can have time to review. Please forward all responses to Townboard@greenburghny.com
. I will forward your responses to the CAC.
Thanks so much.