Southampton Town board members will vote on whether or not...

Southampton Town board members will vote on whether or not to ban plastic bags used in retail stores. Credit: Newsday file photo, 2008

Southampton Town board members will vote Tuesday on whether to hold a public hearing this month to consider banning the use of thin plastic bags in retail stores.

At Friday's work session, discussion of the possible ban was met with opposition from retailers and applause from environmentalists.

The law would ban single-use checkout plastic bags that are less than 2 millimeters thick. Shoppers would be encouraged to bring their own bags, but stores could supply paper bags made of 30 percent recycled materials.

The Village of Southampton passed a similar law that took effect Nov. 6, becoming the first municipality on Long Island to do so. The Village of East Hampton recently passed similar legislation.

Environmentalists contend wildlife, especially aquatic creatures, often mistake plastic bags for jelly fish or other types of food, swallow them and suffocate.

Thomas Cullen, vice president of government, industry and public relations for King Kullen groceries, said the town hasn't tried educating the public on the merits of recycling bags, which he thinks need to be examined before a ban. He and other opponents from the Southampton Business Alliance, a group of business owners, say a possible ban is too much, too soon.

Cullen said plastic bags cost 1.6 cents and paper about 5.5 cents each, and that paper is bulkier, requiring more storage space.

Cullen and others said town officials agreed to meet with the alliance after a July 18 meeting to discuss alternatives. Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said no one from the alliance responded to the invitation.

The supervisor said she put herself on a six-month trial, using only reusable bags, and called it "eminently doable."

"It's just education and habit," Throne-Holst said.

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