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Rye Merchants React to Plastic Bag Ordinance

RYE, N.Y. – The Rye Sustainability Committee met on Tuesday evening inside of City Hall to discuss the committee's plans for the 2012 year. The committee had what it considers to be its biggest victory to date in early December when the city council unanimously passed the committee's plastic bag ordinance.

With the ordinance going into effect in May, the committee is busy raising awareness among the community regarding the ordinance.

"The team has been working hard trying to get the word out about the ordinance," Suzanna Keither, city council liason. "Whether it's distributing packets to vendors or working with the chamber, the key right now is to just raise awareness."

The ordinance applies only to plastic bags at the point of sale and exempts thin film bags used for produce and deli products, garment bags used by dry cleaners, large plastic bags used to enclose artwork, and thick bags made from "durable plastic." The ordinance also excludes any other type of plastic, such as plastic containers, cups, utensils and bottles.

According to Penny Hogben of Rags in Rye, some merchants, like Rags, have been free of plastic bags for several years. Hogben added that Rags shed its distinct "heavy-duty" plastic bag years ago in favor of the more environmentally friendly paper bag.

"I love the reusable bag thing," Hogben said. "I would love for all of these stores to be plastic free, but it's difficult with the bad economy."

Claudia Baker, owner of All Paws in downtown Rye, agreed with Hogben.

"It's fantastic the city is increasing awareness about using reusable bags for the smaller specialty stores," Baker said. "But where's the sensitivity to the small business owner?"

According to Baker, most stores that do not spring for biodegradable plastic bags pay 1 to 2 cents per plastic bag. Places like All Paws spend about 10 cents on each biodegradable bag. Once the new ordinance comes into effect, All Paws and other merchants will be spending anywhere from 40 to 60 cents a bag, Baker said.

Keith commended the effort of all the city's merchants as they strive to comply with the ordinance

"It’s a new thing and we’re all working together as a community to implement it," Keith said. "Our merchants are extremely brave and courageous for doing what is right for our community."

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