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Plastic bag ban would be 'the end' for Melville manufacturer, owner says

A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags was debated in Albany on Monday. Newsday business reporter Daysi Calavia-Robertson was at the hearing. (Credit: Newsday / Daysi Calavia-Robertson)

ALBANY —  A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags "would mean the end of our business" if it goes into effect March 1 as written, the owner of a Melville plastic bag manufacturer told state officials at a public hearing Monday.

Peter Levy, president of Poly-Pak Industries, said that because the vast majority of his firm's sales are in New York, "the impact this law will have on our company and our employees is catastrophic." 

The firm's 300 employees "will never be able to replace their jobs at the wages they currently earn," he said.

Levy was among more than 30 people, representing manufacturers, retail industry groups, environmentalists and consumers, who spoke at the hearing held by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.  

Under the law as adopted last year, grocery stores, clothing shops, big box retailers and others in the state will be prohibited from offering single-use plastic bags to shoppers. The legislation makes a 5-cent fee on paper bags optional for counties and cities. 

But a new provision added by DEC officials would allow thicker, heavier plastic bags. It is not clear if DEC has the power to make the change through regulation, or if it would require a vote by legislators to amend the law.

George Povall, director of All Our Energy, a Point Lookout nonprofit focused on environmental advocacy, argued for removal of the provision allowing the thicker bags, classified as "10 mil."  A mil is a thousandth of an inch.  

For comparison, the plastic bags typically offered at supermarkets are 0.5 mil thick. 

Several speakers called the DEC provision a "loophole," saying it was drafted to appease the plastic bag manufacturing industry.

"The size and thickness of a bag won't shift behavior," said Povall. "If we don't strike this provision, we will end up having the same problem that we're trying to solve with this law,"  of single-use plastic bags polluting the environment. 

DEC spokesman Kevin O. Frazier said the department's draft regulations "are consistent with the goals and objectives of the law."

Povall also called for a mandatory 5-cent fee on paper bags, to push consumers to a "bring your own bag" culture. 

Suffolk County’s mandatory 5-cent fee on paper and plastic bags will be supplanted by the new state law, the governor’s office told Newsday in May. When the new state law takes effect, Suffolk, which has also passed bans on plastic straws and Styrofoam, is expected to implement a 5-cent fee on papers bags.  

In Nassau, county legislative leaders have said they won’t pass a fee on paper bags. 

DEC administrative law judge Molly McBride took notes during each speaker's three-minute presentation but offered no comments. 

The public comment submission period is open until 5 p.m. on Feb 3. 

DEC officials will "rigorously review all the submitted comments," Frazier said. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect thickness for plastic grocery bags. 

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