Hauppauge, NY – Legislator William R. Spencer, local leaders and the Department of Health Services have announced the release of a comprehensive report evaluating the progress of the Suffolk County carryout bag law. The findings, which include three sets of data, indicate significant success in the county’s effort to reduce the consumption and waste of single-use bags. The report, measuring shoppers’ bag choices, beach clean-up statistics and bag purchases by retailers before and after the implementation of the policy, is an undertaking unique to Suffolk County. Such an extensive study has not been conducted in any other municipality throughout the country.
The report tells a story of how the policy has influenced Suffolk County’s consumption of plastic bags. The law has effectively encouraged more people to bring reusable bags in replace of plastic and those continuing to use plastic, are using less. The combination of the two behavioral changes have resulted in an 80 % reduction of plastic bags.
“Plastic pollution is a global issue that we are confronting locally with successful results. We have made a difference in Suffolk County, and I believe we can make a difference around the world. I’m thankful to all the stakeholders who helped make this happen, particularly the residents,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer.
“Suffolk County should be proud of this significant reduction of 1 billion plastic bags per year. This is an exciting and meaningful reduction of our plastic waste. As more and more evidence mounts about the dangers of plastic pollution it is critical that we change our behavior and reduce our use of plastics and that’s exactly what Suffolk County has achieved. Kudos to Legislator Spencer on the success of this legislation,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
The top take aways of the study include:
"As evidenced by the findings in this report, the unqualified success of the Suffolk County legislation, establishing a 5-cent fee on disposable paper and plastic bags, illustrates how valuable and effective waste reduction strategies can be. This legislation represents a triple win: clear benefits to wildlife through a significant reduction in the number of bags finding their way into environment, reduced product costs to businesses, and a positive fiscal impact to municipalities who have less problematic plastic bags to process at their recycling facilities", noted John Turner, a Conservation Policy Advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association. "Seatuck hopes that Governor Cuomo and state Senate and Assembly leadership embrace the concept on a statewide level,” he concluded.
“After witnessing the extremely detrimental impacts of unregulated consumption of plastic bags throughout the world, taking local initiatives like this plastic bag fee in Suffolk County is contributing actively to reduce the presence of plastic waste. This fee has set a precedent for other places in the United States and the world as to how, we, the people, can take practical and legislative actions to protect our environment and future,” Harpreet Kaur, Brentwood High School Student.
“Engaging students in the preservation and protection of the environment is critical for future generations. The survey was the result of Suffolk County's young scientists getting out there to collect data. I am grateful for all of the districts that participated and without them and their students, this would not be possible.” Dr. Rebecca Grella, Brentwood High School science teacher.
“The American Littoral Society has been leading beach cleanup efforts in NY since 1986 and strongly supports the Suffolk County legislation that was enacted to reduce plastic bag use. Plastic bags have been responsible for the deaths of countless birds, sea turtles, and other marine animals and the implementation of this fee is great for humans, marine life and the environment,” stated Lisa Scheppke, Restoration Project Coordinator with the American Littoral Society.
Accompanying the legislation to reduce plastic bags was the creation of a working group charged with educating the public and measuring the effectiveness of the policy. The working group is expected to release a report in 2021 and for three years following the implementation of the local law, ending in 2024. The purpose of the report is to continue tracking the impact of the policy and to ensure its credibility.