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Long Beach moves to restrict plastic bag use

Paul Leone, Leah Tozer and Amanda Moore, all

Paul Leone, Leah Tozer and Amanda Moore, all of Long Beach, participate in a protest against plastic bags in front of Long Beach City Hall on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Beach may soon be joining a growing number of communities restricting the use of plastic bags.

About 100 residents gathered at Long Beach City Hall last week to rally with City Council members to curb plastic bag use ahead of legislation the city is expected to vote on in the coming months.

City Council members have not scheduled a vote, but are reviewing different models in Long Island and New York City to draft legislation that would encourage residents to use cloth, reusable bags in order to cut down on plastic bags’ impact on the environment.

Long Beach residents and members of the local “BYO-Bag” group hung plastic bags in Long Beach Kennedy Plaza in front of City Hall and shared messages of how the bags pollute the Long Beach barrier island. Two men were dressed head to toe in suits of plastic bags to illustrate how many bags the average American uses each year.

The rally was led by George Povall, who represents the Point Lookout-based All Our Energy organization for conservation and renewable energy. He said supporters are not seeking an outright ban of plastic bags, but are proposing a fee to reduce bag use.

“Long Beach is perfectly situated to do this,” Povall said. “It’s not only an enclosed community, but we see plastic bags in the water and as pollution all the time. It makes it real why this is an issue and why it needs to transition.”

Povall argued that if bags are no longer free, it will change consumers’ behavior at the cash register.

In Long Beach, approximately 11 million plastic bags are used each year, with only about 10 to 15 percent recycled, Povall said. Organizers have collected about 2,500 signatures supporting a plastic bag ordinance and 82 Long Beach businesses have said they support it, said Amanda Moore of the Central Long Island Surfrider Foundation for clean water.

Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said the city has been working with organizers to curb plastic bag use and draft legislation with the city’s environmental advisory board.

“We’re looking to draft smart, progressive legislation to reduce the impact of single plastic bag use in Long Beach,” Schnirman said. “It’s something we see as a challenge in the city.”

The city has studied plastic bag legislation in Southampton and New York City to find its own best model. Southampton Town and Patchogue have adopted the most stringent model, with an outright ban on single-use plastic bags.

New York City and other communities have proposed adding taxes or fees, but the city’s bill has been delayed while the state legislature considers a bill to ban local governments from passing taxes on plastic bags.

Long Beach City Council members have given unanimous support for a plastic bag ordinance to reduce pollution in the city. City Council President Len Torres said a bill was “long overdue” for Long Beach as “a progressive city”

“We live on a barrier island surrounded by water, and plastic bags are destroying our environment, water and our marine life,” Councilwoman Eileen Goggin said. “The City Council is considering legislation and reviewing our options and we are committed to making this happen.”

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