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Patchogue shoppers begin using only reusable bags

A thick plastic shopping bag from Bravo Supermarket

A thick plastic shopping bag from Bravo Supermarket in Patchogue, Sept. 15, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Many Patchogue businesses say they are complying with the village’s ban on single-use plastic bags one week after the law went into effect.

The handful of customers shopping at Bravo Supermarket on Tuesday afternoon appeared surprised when they were met at the cash register with a notice of the ban.

“Please be advised . . . the use and distribution of single-use plastic bags will be prohibited,” the notice read in part.

The plastic bags were replaced with new, thicker reusable plastic bags, which cost customers a dime a piece.

“I grew up using paper bags,” said village resident Robert Kalinpoulis, 59, a regular Bravo shopper who supports the ban. “We should use reusable bags because of the environment.”

Jose Bonilla, the owner of the supermarket, could not be reached for comment.

Elsewhere in the village was much of the same.

Burlington Coat Factory on Main Street gave away small reusable bags with each purchase and sold large reusable plastic bags for 99 cents. At Caribe Mini Market, shoppers were also using the reusable bags. At an ice cream shop the banned plastic bags were available.

“I’m really happy that it’s finally taken effect and we’re optimistic for positive results,” said village trustee Joseph Keyes, who spearheaded the initiative.

He said the village began inspecting stores for the reusable bags on Wednesday.

The Patchogue Village Board of Trustees approved the ban in June 2015 on a 4-2 vote. It went into effect Sept. 6, giving what village officials believe was ample time for local merchants to adjust.

However, Lori Belmonte, co-owner of The Colony Shop children’s clothing store on Main Street, had recently signed a contract for a three-year supply with a local distributor for single-use plastic bags when the law was adopted.

While she agrees with the change, Belmonte preferred more of a grace period to get rid of her bags and contends she lost $8,000 due to the law.

“I understand why they did it. I don’t like losing money. It’s not a small amount,” Belmonte said. “I’m not Macy’s.”

Under the new village law, single-use plastic bags are not allowed at village businesses. The only exceptions are the bags used for produce, prescription medicine, fish and bait and merchandise that would contaminate other food.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in an interview that the law couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We will see cleaner streets, cleaner parks and a cleaner community because of the ban. We’re just going to have to get used to bringing our own bags,” Esposito said.

U.S. retailers spend $4 billion annually on disposable bags and plastic pollution impacts hundreds of species of marine life, officials said.

Under the Patchogue law, all bags must be made of at least 40 percent recyclable material. Southampton and East Hampton towns have approved similar bans. Officials in those communities where the single-use bags have been banned have encouraged residents to use their own reusable bags when shopping. The Suffolk County Legislature recently passed a bill requiring stores to charge for the single-use bags.


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