plastic bag ban

Nyack Students Out Front On Plastic Bag Ban

Environmental Government

Spring Veggies, Baked Goods, and Reusable Bags

By Tina Traster

In addition to spring vegetables and baked goods at Nyack’s Farmer Market on Thursdays, keep an eye out for a group of student activists promoting an idea that’s fully ripened: reusable shopping bags.

The Nyack High School’s Environmental Club has taken its cue from recently passed laws, as well as from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish youth activist whose flash point viral video chides adults worldwide for their sluggish response to environmental crises.

“Young people these days are really alarmed about the state of the world,” said Tom Perry, who teaches environmental sciences at Nyack High School’s and oversee the student Environmental Club. “It’s so overwhelming at the global level. If there’s something small they can do at the local level, that’s what’s motivating them to get involved.”

The 85% recyclable cotton give-away bags, replete with a turtle logo designed by Julia Tscherne, will be given away to the first 50 people who want them. The club’s leaders, Lucinda Carroll and Julia Tighe, along with the 25-club members, are hoping the bags will be a “teachable moment” that will dovetail with laws that have recently been passed at the state level, and are still being considered by the county.

New York is set to become the second state to ban single-use plastic bags, after the New York State Legislature signed off on a $175 billion budget that included the measure. The ban, set to take effect on March 1, 2020, will include exemptions for uncooked meat, fish or poultry, prescription drugs, trash bags and restaurant carryout orders.

Counties will be allowed to charge a five-cent tax for paper bags, three cents of which will go to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and two cents to local governments. But they will also have the right to opt out. In 2014, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags.

The proposed county bill to ban plastic bags, which is awaiting Ed Day’s signature, did not include the five-cent tax. Today is County Executive Ed Day’s deadline to sign or veto a bill the Rockland County Board of Legislators passed last month that would limit the use of disposable single-use plastic carryout bags at businesses throughout the county.

Nyack Village trustees have been toying with the idea, after Piermont passed a ban on plastic bags earlier this year but no legislation has been proposed.

It is unclear whether the county or Nyack, or other towns and villages in Rockland County will pass laws in light of a state ban, which likely preempts local laws.

While the adults are left to sort out how the laws are to be governed, activist students are determined to carry the torch. Perry says the students tomorrow will walk down to the market, so they don’t burn fossil fuels, and the video production class will be on hand to film the event.

The students also went out and polled Nyack’s merchants on the upcoming ban, and found a spectrum of responses – from total buy-in to some skepticism.

“Everyone accepts the notion but we do feel like we need to talk to the merchants,” said Nancy S. Phillips, vice president of the Nyack Chamber of Commerce. “We need to figure out how to help our local merchants navigate the new laws.”