This Sunday, Southampton Village environmental advocates will see their effort to outlaw single-use plastic shopping and take-out bags at village stores and markets come to fruition as the takes effect.
While paper bags and extra-large plastic bags typical of clothing stores will still be permitted, starting Sunday giving customers the plastic "T-shirt bags" most often seen at grocery stores, take-out eateries and pharmacies will be a violation of village code.
Roger Blaugh, a Southampton Village resident and real estate agent, helped lead the charge as co-chair of the SAVE committee, Southampton Advocates for the Village Environment, to introduce the plastic bag law to the village board members and have them approve it. In , Blaugh credits much of his motivation in reducing the use of plastics to the documentary film "Bag It," which explores the impact of plastics on health and the environment. SAVE hosted a screening of the film last month.
“It starts with bags and goes into other single-use disposable items, like bottles, and cups and plastic silverware — all that kind of nutty stuff," Suzan Beraza, the director of "Bag It," explained in an interview this week.
Beraza lives in Telluride, Colo., a ski town, which she said is similar to Southampton, as both are resort areas. She said the film arose when her town and Aspen, Colo. competed to see whose residents could reduce their use of plastic bags the most. What started as a short film grew into a much longer documentary as she and the subject of the film, Telluride morning show host Jeb Berrier, found more to investigate about plastics.
“During the course of the film, [Berrier] and his wife find out they’re going to have a baby,” Beraza noted. That event carries the film into exploring plastic products' effect on health and pregnancy, such as the effects of BPA and phalites, found in personal care products like lotions, makeup, perfumes and shampoos. Beraza said chemicals suspected of being endocrine disruptors and causing cancer are pervasive, but warning labels are not required.
Concerning the environmental impact of plastics, Beraza said both marine and land animals eat plastic bags and other products, which often proves fatal. One of the things she found out during the making of the film that got her the most incensed was the amount of plastic garbage in the ocean, she said, specifically the North Pacific Gyre, often called the "garbage patch," where fish, sea turtles and other marine life eat floating plastic.
Since the making of "Bag It," Telluride has banned plastic bags and required a fee for paper bags. Now, nine out of 10 residents bring their own reusable bags to shop, Beraza said. While several local grocery stores in Southampton Town offer incentives to customers to bring reusable bags, “human psychology is — while it's great to get an incentive — people react much much more strongly to a fee being charged,” she said.
Blaugh and SAVE co-chair Mackie Finnerty will be stationed outside the Southampton Village on Sunday between 1 and 2 p.m. giving away reusable bags donated by local merchants.
That day Waldbaum's will begin charging 5 cents each for paper bags and donate the profit to the Peconic Land Trust, an East End farming, open space and parkland preservation nonprofit. Reusable shopping bags made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled material will be sold for 99 cents each. Customers will get 5 cents off their grocery bill each time they reuse a bag. The store will also carry Peconic Land Trust-branded merchandise, and contribute the profiles to the trust.