Madison County plastic bag ban discussions continue

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WAMPSVILLE — Madison County residents continue to support a proposed plastic grocery bag ban in the county, and officials are considering voting for the ban after a county Board of Supervisors’ public hearing Tuesday reaffirmed that residents favor the ban.

That meeting brought the total number of responses favoring the ban to 138 while responses opposing the ban total 36. Responses have been given in the form of e-mails, letters, post cards, petitions and speakers who presented their views at public hearings.

The vote, according to Madison County Administrator Mark Scimone, will likely happen sometime this fall.

“We’re looking at October or maybe November,” Scimone said. “We want to review certain aspects of the law before voting on it. And, it would have to be presented to the board through the solid waste and recycling committee. It’s a process.”

County officials have also delayed a vote so they may review public input on the ban.

“People who support and oppose the ban want certain modifications made to the law before it is voted on,” Scimone said. “We’ve had several questions raised, including possible exemptions for certain stores and whether paper bags would be a practical alternative.”

Helping the environment

Madison County has opposed the use of plastic bags because of their ill effects on the environment. They clog drains and natural waterways, and pose threats to wildlife. Even when disposed of properly, plastic bags take between 500 and 1,000 years to dissolve, and are not completely biodegradable.

“The board has determined that this local law is necessary to protect the environment, reduce pollution and control litter,” Solid Waste and Recycling Committee Chairman James S. Goldstein said when the board introduced the law in April.

Businesses covered by the local law would include grocery and convenience stores, hardware stores, pharmacies, apparel and office supply stores. Stores may provide these bags to customers using the supplemental nutrition assistance program or special supplemental nutrition programs. Certain stores including food service establishments and liquor stores will be exempted if the law as it stands is passed.

The law, if approved by the board, would take effect six months after its filing with the New York Secretary of State.

A Solid Waste Hearing Board would, after review of a reported incident, have authority to issue a fine up to $250 and subsequent fines of up to $500 for incidents occurring within 18 months of the first fine. Warnings will be issued during the first six months that the law goes into effect.

Stores would be allowed to provide paper or reusable carryout bags. County residents may still drop off bags at the county recycling center, 6663 Buyea Road, Canastota.

The county is considering making cloth bags as an alternative. “We are searching for sponsors who would want to advertise on the bags. This would offset production costs of the bags,” Madison County Recycling Director James Zecca said.

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