Plastic bags on a checkout counter at a Stop &...

Plastic bags on a checkout counter at a Stop & Shop. (April 4, 2008) Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler

East Hampton's village board voted Friday morning to ban the use of plastic bags by commercial establishments -- becoming the second municipality on Long Island to require grocery stores to go back to paper or to ask customers to bring their own reusable shopping bags when they shop.

Southampton Village adopted a similar measure in April, which the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment said was the first such ban in New York State. That ban served as both a model and inspiration for East Hampton Village's law.

A dozen people spoke at Friday's meeting about the proposal, including 10 residents who supported it and two industry group representatives who said it would create problems for businesses, such as added costs. They said a voluntary program would be better.

"We feel this is the right thing to do," East Hampton Mayor Paul Rickenbach said. "We respect both sides of the argument. We feel confident with what we are doing."

He added it would take six months before the ban goes into effect. The board approved the resolution, 3-0.

The ban applies to the thin plastic bags with handles normally found at supermarket checkout counters and at other stores. It does not apply to the even thinner bags in the produce aisle that customers fill with produce, to the thin bags used to wrap newspapers for home delivery, or to the thicker plastic bags used to throw out household garbage.

East Hampton village administrator Larry Cantwell said there has been little public comment on the ban, either pro or con.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has formed a working group to look at the issue and to seek ways of getting people to choose their own alternatives, such as reusable shopping bags, or to encourage recycling of plastic bags after they are taken home. She said simply having people switch from plastic bags to paper ones "only solves half the problem."

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