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New York State ban on disposable bags would carry more weight

A person picks up a plastic bag on

A person picks up a plastic bag on June 30, 2014 in a supermarket in Paris. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Fred Dufour

With New York City poised to adopt a 5-cent charge on plastic bags from retail and grocery stores, the sponsor of a proposed ban on the bags in Suffolk County says the city’s pending action makes it more difficult not to fall in line. We continue to prefer an outright ban on the bags, but we understand why Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport) is considering a revision of his legislation.

Different laws in neighboring jurisdictions can be confusing. Consider: The Suffolk towns of Southampton and East Hampton and the Village of Patchogue have instituted bag bans, while Nassau — perennially behind on such issues — has done nothing. Whether the solution is a fee or a ban, the goal is to change people’s behavior and reduce the number of nonbiodegradable plastic bags when there are alternatives. That’s what’s happened in other places that have charged a nickel for the bags. Usage declines, and fewer bags end up as trash.

The best solution is one statewide policy — a ban on retail-store plastic bags enacted by the State Legislature. Instead, state Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, has introduced a bill that would bar any jurisdiction from charging a fee for bags. That’s a move backward, and the bill should be defeated.

The more we can reduce the proliferation of unnecessary plastic bags the better. — The editorial board