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Long IslandSuffolk

Suffolk Legis. William Spencer delays plan to ban plastic bags

Suffolk County’s proposed ban on single-use plastic bags was delayed Thursday, as the bill’s sponsor expressed willingness to compromise to allay concerns of retailers, unions and the plastic bag industry.

“I’m listening to impacted parties and willing to strike a balance,” said Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport).

Spencer said he was not backing off his proposal to ban distribution of plastic bags at retail stores. But he said he is considering counterproposals including a five-cent cent tax on plastic and paper bags that are given out at grocery stores.

The legislature’s Health Committee, chaired by Spencer, unanimously tabled the bill Thursday. Spencer said he hopes to have an amended version of the legislation ready for a vote in May or June.

Spencer said he was willing to discuss delaying the implementation of a ban, allowing distribution of thicker plastic bags that consumers would be more likely to reuse and waiving a proposed 10-cent fee for paper bags.

The supermarket industry, a national plastic bag trade association and Melville-based manufacturer Poly-Pak Industries had raised concerns about the effect of the bill, saying it would increase consumer costs and possibly cost jobs.

Ken Trottere, vice president of Poly-Pak, which employs 300 people, said plastic bag manufacturing accounts for almost half the company’s business.

“We’re trying to make them understand the human consequences of the law,” said Trottere, who has been meeting with lawmakers about the bill.

Environmentalists and other supporters of the proposed law testified that the county should institute a ban of the plastic bags. They said the bags are littering roadwways and waterways and harm marine animals, which ingest them.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Spencer’s current bill, “provides the best permanent solution to solving the problem, saving the public money and saving the environment.” Esposito said the cent-and-a half average cost per plastic bag that retailers pay is passed along to customers.

Spencer said he was, “hell-bent on reaching consensus of some form that will reduce the use of plastic bags.”

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the administration is working with Spencer, lawmakers and outside experts to find common ground. “It is our expectation that process will result in a measure that will have strong bipartisan support and protect our environment,” Schneider said.

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