A photo shows trash inside garbage receptacles.

A photo shows trash inside garbage receptacles. Credit: Flickr user NatalieMaynor

Brookhaven residents may have to start bagging their trash before putting it into garbage cans, if the town board passes a measure intended to reduce litter.

Supporters said the requirement -- which has been adopted in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Winston-Salem, North Carolina -- is intended to cut the amount of trash inadvertently dumped from garbage cans tipped over by animals and stiff winds. Homeowners currently must place trash outside for curbside pickup -- with or without bags inside trash bins.

"I noticed that much of the litter comes on garbage days, when people put out their trash," said Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who proposed the idea and said it would eliminate a "substantial" amount of litter. "A lot of people put their garbage in cans without bags. . . . This is an effort to reduce that litter."

Some town board members last week said the measure may be too expensive for some homeowners and questioned whether it is necessary. The board postponed a decision for further consideration.

"I don't think it's going to be enforced or it can be enforced," Councilman Dan Panico said.

Waste Management Commissioner Matt Miner said the new measure would encourage recycling and code enforcement officers would use "discretion" in enforcing the law.

"It's the discretion of a town employee that gets us into lawsuits," Panico said.

Supporters said bags would reduce foul odors and insects.

"It will eliminate some of the littering and it will cut down on some of the smell," said Councilman Neil Foley, the town board's liaison to the Waste Management Department.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, in Farmingdale, said the law may be a first on Long Island. But she said the law would be worse for the environment because it would encourage the use of plastic bags.

"The goal is to reduce the use of plastic, not increase it. This would be a misguided law," she said in an interview. "It's just nonsensical. The goal is to take plastic out of the waste stream, not to increase it in the waste stream."

Kepert said she is a "big fan" of eliminating plastic bags. "However, what's worse -- having a plastic bag in the garbage can or having litter throughout the community?" she said.

The towns and villages of East Hampton and Southampton have banned plastic shopping bags. A similar ban is being considered by Village of Patchogue officials.

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