Ban on plastic shopping bags proposed

Posted at 12:02 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 18:16:52-05

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is proposing to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in Erie County.

Some, including Sam Magavern, think it's a good idea. “It’s estimated that about 100,000 mammals and birds die every year by eating parts of plastic bags or getting tangled up in them.”

Magavern is the co-director of Partnership for the Public Good. The community based think tank advocates and researches on behalf of some 207 community groups and nonprofits throughout Buffalo. It looked into plastic bags in 2011 and found them to be harmful. Magavern said he's glad to see the county executive taking a stand. “We think it's a great idea. Plastic bags are just very wasteful both economically and environmentally.”

The county executive doesn't have this one in the bag, just yet. First, the county would need to study the impact a ban would have on consumers, retailers, and the environment. Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is among those critical of the proposal. I'm still waiting for the punchline here. While I think that would make NYC liberals extremely proud, I think it's incredibly tone deaf to folks who live in Cheektowaga, and Lackawanna who are struggling every, single day.”

Wegmans has its own concerns with the proposal. In a statement, it said: “Unintended consequences come from banning anything.  And, we are never in favor of adding fees or taxes to solve issues like these. 

We know from experience that it’s possible to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags by promoting reusable bags.  This coupled with greater use of plastic bags made from recycled plastic will have a much greater impact in the long run.  Our plastic bags are made from 40% recycled plastic that is returned to our stores by our own customers, and our recycling rate for plastic bags averaged 51% in 2015.  (A true closed-loop system.)

The consequence of banning plastic bags is the increased use of paper bags, which is far more impactful on the environment.  Paper bags weigh more and take up more space, it takes 7 tractor trailers to transport the same number of paper bags as plastic bags carried by one tractor trailer.  Paper also takes more energy and water to produce and recycle, and in fact, does not degrade in landfills.”

Poloncarz would like to see shoppers turn to reusable bags. He handed out 300 during Thursday’s speech. “We have only one planet. We must do our part in ensuring its future,” he added. 

San Francisco is among the places where plastic bags are already banned. While there are other downstate communities who have enforced a ban, Erie County would be the first upstate county to do so.