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Local shoppers respond to Cuomo's plastic bag ban proposal

January 14, 2019 08:38 PM

Rochester area shoppers offered support, with some misgivings, for Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to do away with plastic shopping bags across the state.

"I understand the need for it because people discard them and it's more waste," said Chanel Martin of Greece. And while she insisted she frequently used reusable fabric totes for her groceries, she balked at the notion of an outright prohibition on plastic grocery bags. "I kind of feel like a ban takes away that choice from people, and that's not ok," she added. 

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On Sunday, Cuomo announced his intention to include in his state budget proposal a plan to ban most single-use plastic bags. A release from the governor's office declared the initiative would "help reduce litter, cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment for future generations." 

"Oh, a relief for us it would be finally!" said Peter Debes, vice chairman of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club. "The plastic takes such a heavy toll on the planet. It's basically polluting our planet."

Cuomo's proposal would not apply to plastic bags used in stores for wrapping fish, meat or produce, or to paper grocery bags.

Food industry representatives have complained that the proposal would create a hardship for stores, and simply encourage shoppers to switch to paper bags.

"Paper bags are more costly,"  said Mike Durant, president of the New York Food Industry Alliance. 

Debes warned that regulations like a plastic bag ban "don't happen in a vacuum" and could put a painful squeeze on struggling grocers whose margins may put them narrowly out of the red.

"You've had annual increases in minimum wage, and a variety of other labor costs that are impacting business across the state. This will have an additional cost on business," added Durant. 

Debes said attempts to convince shoppers to voluntarily embrace reusable shopping tote bags had demonstrated some success in some New York communities.  

Timothy O'Connor, supervisor at Hart's Local Grocery in Rochester, said he'd seen concern about using plastic bags among his customers, even among those who do use them. "The people that do want to go with plastic will mention that they are going to reuse it and then recycle it," he said. "It's almost like it gives them a bit of a guilty conscience."

O'Connor pointed to what he called good sales of Hart's reusable tote bags which cost $3.99 apiece.

Rochester's highest profile grocer, Wegmans, declined to comment on the proposal offering a brief statement Monday that said the company awaited a chance to "thoroughly review the details of the governor's proposal to understand its scope and impact." 

Debes said industry advocates like the alliance also hoped to start a negotiating process once Cuomo's proposed budget, and the details of the plastic bag ban, were revealed.

Credits

Charles Molineaux

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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