Opinion: Ditch the Plastic Bags for Reusable Ones

Monday was Earth Day. This month we celebrate our planet’s beauty and all of the wonders that it has to offer, including one of my favorite spots, Theodore Roosevelt’s home, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. However, we can’t take our planet or its longevity for granted. Our environment must be protected for generations to come and as citizens we must make decisions that will help do so.

This month the State Legislature passed a ban on plastic bags, similar to laws already in place Suffolk County and Long Beach to discourage their use.  In Suffolk County — now one year bag free — grocery stores reported an 80% decrease in the distribution of plastic bags. Suffolk residents used 1.1 billion fewer bags.

That’s 1.1 billion fewer plastic bags ending up in our waters.

Plastic bags harm our planet, winding up in the oceans and bays and clogging street drains, and that’s not to mention the pollution created when they are produced.  100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually; many of us have seen plastic bags floating in the water while at the beach.

We have the power to change this.

Switching from reliability on plastic bags towards reusable bags will have a dramatic change and benefit on our environment.

There are a few smart exceptions to the new law. Plastic bags will still be available for uncooked meat, fish, and poultry. Plastic bags will still be used for takeout food. Plastic garbage bags will still be sold in stores. In other instances though, we can look to switch to use reusable bags.

The new law goes into effect next year.  In that time, my office will be partnering with groups across Long Island to encourage the use of reusable bags. We will be organizing giveaways for free reusable bags and we will work to inform the public of this new law. There will be ample opportunity for people to adjust their shopping habits and switch to reusable bags.

As we work together as a community to take care of our planet, let’s start with grabbing a reusable bag for our next trip to the supermarket.

Sen. James Gaughran represents the 5th New York State Senate District

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