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Just bag it, Colton sez - New recycling push advocated

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A local lawmaker is calling for consumers to boycott bags and instead BYOB – “Bring your own bags” – when they go shopping.

Assemblymember William Colton, chair of the Legislative Task Force on Waste Management and Recycling, is hoping to pass legislation compelling large supermarkets (over 10,000 square feet) to offer incentives to consumers for using their own bags instead of the plastic bags.

Colton said the measure will not only protect the environment but also be an opening salvo in the fight against reliance on oil.

“It’s as simple as recycling the plastic bags now and using reusable or biodegradable bags from now on until we can get legislation that will make it too costly to use these environmentally destructive bags,” Colton said.

“Plastic bags are difficult to recycle and account for tons of waste piled up in landfills. Furthermore, plastic bags litter our neighborhoods and residential parks while also endangering surrounding wildlife,” he noted.

In the United States, 380 billion plastic bags are used each year. Plastic bags use over 12 million barrels of oil each year to manufacture. “The harsh economics behind bag recycling is that it costs $4,000 to process and recycle one ton of plastic bags which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32,” Colton said.

“The public does not realize just how costly it is to solve this problem,” he stated.

Colton has introduced two pieces of legislation in the Assembly to curb usage of plastic bags.

The first prohibits the use of plastic bags in specific supermarkets in New York State and is modeled after similar legislation in San Francisco.

The second bill compels retail business to restrict the use of non-compostable plastic bags by 50 percent by 2010 and by 2012 all non-compostable plastic bags will be banned.

It also provides that by January 1, 2013, retail stores can use recyclable paper bags, compostable bags and/or reusable bags as checkout bags.

Countries that have banned or taken similar action to discourage the use of plastic bags include Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Taiwan.

If passed by the New York Assembly and Senate, the bills would require the signature of Governor David Paterson.

By Gary Buiso

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