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Mar 14, 2012 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Green Lights Plastic Bag Education

Mar 14, 2012 11:43 AM

When it comes to recycling efforts, children can lead the way. 
So believe Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who pitched a plan—which was unanimously adopted by the Town Board on Tuesday—to establish and appoint members to a new Southampton Town Plastic Bag Education Task Force.

The goal, Mr. Nuzzi said, is to jump start a new educational campaign called “A Greener Southampton, The Solution is in the Bag” aimed at encouraging businesses and residents to reduce their use of single use plastic bags, increase the number of plastic bags recycled, and promote the use of reusable bags.

The goal of the task force for this year will be to increase the number of plastic bags recycled by 15 percent.

On tuesday, Ms. Scalera commended the task force. “Everyone has been working really hard,” she said.

Mr. Nuzzi said one hands-on component of the educational outreach program will involve local schoolchildren, who will embark upon a contest to see who can collect the most plastic bags.

At the meeting, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming stressed the importance of achieving an overall reduction in plastic bag use.

“I think we all agree with the end result being the fact that we want to lessen our reliance on these bags,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “The discussion is how we get there.”

In December, the Southampton Town Board voted down a measure to hold a public hearing on legislation that would have banned retailers townwide from distributing most plastic bags at checkout. The measure was similar to one adopted by the Southampton Village Board last year.

The main concern by the majority at the time—Republicans Chris Nuzzi and Nancy Graboski and Conservative Party member Jim Malone—was that they first wanted businesses to pitch in on an educational campaign that would try to broadcast the benefits of using reusable bags before the town became the third South Fork municipality to enact a ban on the use of plastic bags. They said it was something members of the board and representatives of the food industry agreed to do in June at a Town Board work session.

Mr. Nuzzi thanked all the different sectors of the community who have come forward to pitch in with the educational outreach and form a working group. Education is key, Mr. Nuzzi said.

To that end, schoolchildren will learn about how the recycled plastic bags are used to create Trex, a durable plastic composite used for benches and decks. The school that collects the most plastic bags will receive a bench made of Trex, he said.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst expressed some reservations about the plan, questioning the materials being shipped overseas for recycling, and the reliance on fossil fuels used to transport the bags. She suggested the board watch the YouTube video “Bag It,” to see the harmful effects of such recycling efforts.

Mr. Nuzzi, however, said the task force—and education—are critical first steps, especially involving children. “Often, some of these younger people can educate us,” he said. “They’re behind the curve when it comes to recycling and can tell us how it does or doesn’t work within their own households.”

PDDS Ahead

Ms. Throne-Holst said the coming months could see a surge in the number of applications for planned development districts that come before the Town Board for consideration. Along with an application for a change of zone requested by developer Robert Morrow for a supermarket in Tuckahoe and the planned development district application recently filed by cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, partners in the Melville-based company R Squared LLC, for the Canoe Place Inn parcel in Hampton Bays, the supervisor said there could be at least three more coming down the pike.

Planned developments grant a developer a greater density that would be allowed as of right on a parcel in exchange for a community benefit.

To that end, the town recently sent out a survey to civic advisory committees and other groups asking them to identify what they considered priority community benefits and to weigh in with their thoughts on what they’d like to see, moving forward, in regard to potential benefits. The date for residents to complete the survey and return it to Town Hall is March 30.

While she could not reveal specifics of the upcoming projects, the supervisor said they are scattered throughout Southampton Town. “On the one hand,” she said, “it’s a daunting task for us and for land management to be deliberating on that many, on a good note, perhaps this is an indication of a local uptick in the economy, which we welcome.”

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