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Plastic bag dress, other props used to support proposed Southampton shopping bag ban

A Southampton woman wears a flowing dress made

A Southampton woman wears a flowing dress made of hundreds of plastic checkout bags to Southampton Town Hall at a hearing on Nov. 25, 2014, on a proposed ban of the bags. Credit: Will James

A Southampton woman wore a flowing dress made of hundreds of plastic checkout bags to Town Hall this week -- one of several flamboyant displays activists staged at a hearing on a proposed ban of the shopping bags.

Lynn Arthur, a former engineer and sales representative for IBM, stood at the podium in the crinkly gown on Tuesday and told the town board that the average United States citizen is estimated to use 330 plastic bags per year.

"What does that look like?" she said, stretching out her arms. "I'm wearing it."

The board is considering a ban on single-use plastic checkout bags that would begin in stores on April 22 -- Earth Day.

East Hampton's town board held a hearing on a similar ban on Nov. 20.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst this year has lobbied for a ban in all five of Long Island's East End towns and possibly across Suffolk County.

Environmentalists say the bags linger in landfills and waterways for centuries, sometimes contributing to giant islands of garbage in the ocean, and can kill sea animals and birds that ingest the plastic or get caught in it.

Southampton and East Hampton villages, located within their respective towns, banned the bags in 2011.

Supermarket representatives at Tuesday's hearing argued against the ban, saying they favor educating customers about recycling.

"We know that promoting proper disposal and recycling of materials is important," said Willa Kagan, manager of the Stop & Shop store in Hampton Bays. "We encourage our customers to use reusable bags."

Other environmental activists used props to make their case.

Dorothy Reilly of Southampton wore a bright orange bag wrapped around her head and carried a sign that read: "We're all choked up with plastic. Please pass the ban!"

Roger Blaugh, also of Southampton, tossed a canvas bag into the center of the meeting room and said he has used it to carry groceries for 18 years. "I've washed it 20 times," he said.

Throne-Holst and two other town board members spoke in favor of the ban at the meeting, indicating it is likely to pass when the five-member board votes. No date has been set for the vote.

But board member Christine Scalera said she favored a campaign to promote recycling.

The board agreed to continue accepting written comments on the proposal.

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