We ‘Bag’ Your Pardon on Plastic Shopping Bag Issue

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By: Ken Hamilton







In Western New York, the plastic bags that we get from retail purchases are almost always recycled: if they are not lining our trashcans, then they either serve as stand-alone garbage bags or the keep our streets, sidewalks and neighbor’s yards clean by being used to pick up pet poo during our doggy walks. The latter keeps a lot of peace in our communities.

But as early as January 2019, New York State may have yet another law on the books.  This one bans what is often thought to be the immensely popular disposable plastic bags that are commonly used at supermarkets and other retail outlets. I say that we should tread lightly before moving forward on such a move that may impact us more so than many may realize.

Downtown Niagara Falls resident Anita Strzypek, shown here at a Family Dollar store receiving some paper bags and some product-contingent plastic ones, is somewhat ambivalent on the issue of the elimination of plastic. She said, “Well, I like the plastic bags for my recycling and that; the paper ones, it would be nice to have them back again.”

Strzypek is a nostalgic senior citizen and remembers when all grocery bags were made with heavy duty craft paper. She also said that she liked the plastic ones for garbage bags when she’s putting up onions and things, such as potato peels.

I am old enough to remember those paper bags as well, and I understand Strzypek’s concerns about the wet garbage. As a kid, I don’t know how often that while taking the garbage from the house and to the outdoor garbage cans that I had to grab a broom and dustpan to pick up the garbage that fell from the bag’s bottom because of the volume of wet garbage in it.  Glad garbage bags were coming out at about the same time, but being raised poor, my dad couldn’t afford them. Later in life, I was overjoyed to have the plastic bags that the supermarkets gave out. We still have people in our city who can’t afford the commercial garbage bags.

Too often, the rules that may work for NYC are applied statewide, where the conditions are much different. In the highly concentrated Manhattan, for instance, many of its citizens live in smaller apartments, therefore having smaller refrigerators. As a result, they shop more often at the small markets on their blocks and they buy less fresh foods per trip. But upstaters shop and buy things in bulk, having plenty of space to store groceries. The plastic bags allow us to carry more groceries from our cars, making far less trips that we’d have to make with large paper bags.

Furthermore, because we now have garbage totes, regulations require us bag our garbage prior to placing them into the bins. With the totes, and the minimal amounts of non-recyclable trash that many people have, it is not necessary to set a tote out for several weeks or more.  Having the garbage daily wet garbage, and the other dry household trash tied securely in the small plastic bags keeps the odors down and gives the squirrels no reason to chew through the plastic bins to get at whatever might be in there.

LaSalle resident Tiffany Peterson had confluent answers when questioned on her opinion of the ban on plastic bags. She said that she has pet dogs and needed to use the bags to pickup after them, or else she would have to spend more money on those plastic bags that were manufactured expressedly for waste pickup. But she also said that she was also concerned about the environment, and if the replacement bags were plastic and biodegradable, then they might work.

It seems that Governor Cuomo’s reasons for the ban on plastic is confluent as well. With an upcoming primary battle with ultra-liberal Democrat Cynthia Nixon, and his seemingly real battle with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom a few years ago tried to ban the bags in his city but was blocked by Cuomo, Cuomo may be trying to throw a flea flicker pass around both Nixon and de Blasio, out-liberaling both. The environment that he may be trying to save may be more a political one for himself rather than a natural one us.

But this is New York State, and we live in what seems to be an environment of new regulations anyway. We may just have to ‘bag’ his pardon on this one.

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