The Green Bags Petition for Dutchess County sign now

If you think that Dutchess County should smartly move in the same direction Ulster County is moving in and protect our environment with a ten-cent fee on new plastic bags at store counters, sign on to this petition, pass it along to all you know, and send a letter to all 25 of us in our County Legislature at [email protected]

Fact: Seven years ago in Ireland a 15-cent fee on plastic bags was introduced, and use of plastic bags at store counters declined 90\%.

Fact: Most plastic bags are made of polyethylene (polythene); hazardous to manufacture, and needing up to 1,000 years to decompose on land and 450 years in water.

Fact: 100,000 marine mammals die each year because of plastic litter in our ocean in the North Pacific (

Joel Tyner
Dutchess County Legislature Environmental Committee Chair
County Legislator (Clinton/Rhinebeck)
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
(845) 876-2488

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From ...

Ulster County Considers Charging for Plastic Bags

KINGSTON Ulster County is considering a local law requiring stores to charge 10 cents for every plastic bag they use for customers merchandise.

The Environmental Committee of the County Legislature Tuesday voted to call for public hearings on the issue.

Committee Chairman Brian Shapiro said plastic bags are a scourge on the environment.

If you dont want to spend 10 cents, you are going to use a re-usable bag. Its going to cut down on waste; all of these materials are going into the landfills. They are littering and really making a mess of our highways, he said. One hundred thousand marine mammals every die because they are eating these plastic bags.

Shapiro said Ulster County can take a leadership role by putting the 10-cent fee on plastic bags.
Other counties, including Westchester, now require larger stores to have bins to accept used plastic bags from customers as a way to keep them out of the waste stream.

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From ...

Ulster Mulls Plastic Bag Fee
Daily Freman April 7, 2009

KINGSTON Ulster County lawmakers may decide tonight on setting a public hearing on establishing a 10-cent per bag charge for each plastic shopping bag used at cash registers when packing items for customers.

The proposed 6 p.m. May 6 public hearing was endorsed by the county Ways and Means committee last week but some lawmakers contend residents who can least afford the additional fee will be the most affected.

Lawmakers on the county Environmental Committee contend the law will combat plastic bags along streets and roads, and they often find their way into waterways including the Hudson River via drains, streams, and sewage pipes.

Committee members added that plastic bags biodegrade very slowly, and in fact, over time break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which eventually contaminate soils and waterways. As a consequence their microscopic particles can enter the food chain.

County Legislator Gary Bischoff, D-Saugerties, said a ban was considered but steep costs for potential litigation were considered likely.

We think that the fee is a simpler way to do it, he said. As far as paper versus plastic, paper is a renewable resource, it comes from trees. Plastic is a petroleum-based product and ... is very, very expensive to recycle.

Under the proposed law, fees would be charged by each sales outlet, store, shop or other place of business ... which operates primarily to sell or convey food or merchandise directly to the ultimate consumer.

The law would include carryout food businesses that have either 5,000 square feet of retail space or are part of a chain that has five or more stores. Penalties would be a civil fine of $250 for the first violation and $500 for subsequent violations.

Supporters said the law could help develop cost-effective home budgeting practices. Environmental Committee Chairman Alan Lomita, D-Rosendale, said residents should be encouraged to bring in cloth bags that can be reused.

It doesnt take too long if youre paying 10 cents you start remembering to bring the cloth bags in, he said.

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From\%20No.\%203\%20of\%202009.pdf ...

Introductory Local Law No. 3 Of 2009

County Of Ulster-- A Local Law Establishing Plastic Bag Fee

A. The Ulster County Legislature finds that discarded plastic bags constitute a
portion of the waste stream generated within Ulster County and is, therefore, a
desirable focus of any effort to reduce the amount of solid waste, as well as to
reduce the economic and environmental costs of waste management for the
citizens of this County.

B. This Legislature also finds that a significant quantity of plastic bags are not
properly disposed of and end up as litter along streets and roads, and they often
find their way into waterways including the Hudson River via drains, streams and
sewage pipes.

C. This Legislature further finds that plastic bags biodegrade very slowly, and in
fact, over time break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers which
eventually contaminate soils and waterways. As a consequence their microscopic
particles can enter the food chain.

D. This Legislature further finds that the widespread use of plastics poses a threat
to the environment by contributing to filling of landfill space or, if incinerated, by
the possible introduction of toxic by-products into the atmosphere.

E. This Legislature finds that there are readily available cloth substitutes for most
of the plastic bags now being used in Ulster County, the use of which alternatives
would be environmentally and economically advantageous to the people of Ulster

F. This Legislature finds that plastic bags used by retail establishments constitute
the largest single retail source of plastic bags in the waste stream.

G. Therefore, the purpose of this Article is to incrementally, to the maximum
extent practicable, eliminate the use of plastic bags originating at retail
establishments within Ulster County in order to protect the air, land and waters of
Ulster County against environmental contamination and degradation.

2. The intent of this law is to result in beneficial environmental impacts,
including the following:

a. It will encourage recycling of solid waste products.
b. It will provide enhanced protection of groundwater quality.
c. It will slow down rapid filling of landfill space.
d. It will simplify the chemical composition of solid waste and thereby
reduce the environmental hazards and toxicity associated with solid
waste incineration.
e. It will reduce the cumulative impact of litter.

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From ...

Campaign Against the Plastic Plague Background Info

Plastic bags are everywhere! Everyday, we are handed countless plastic bags: when we go to the grocery store, retail clothing store, book store, restaurants, etc. Yes, sometimes, plastic bags are convenient, as they are water resistant and light and inexpensive compared to paper bags. Most of the time, plastic bags are superfluous and avoidable. It seems as though store clerks are often eager to hand out plastic bags for any and all kind of purchases. Sometimes, a plastic bag is just not necessary for that apple you are about to eat or that soda you are going to drink right away. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves whenever we are handed a plastic bag:

Do I need to take as many plastic bags in supermarkets?
Do I need a plastic bag for an item purchased that is already well packaged by the manufacturer?
Could I bring my own shopping bag when making purchases?

Plastic bags are the cause of major environmental concerns. Statistics show that we are consuming more and more plastics every year. It is estimated that an average individual uses around 130 plastic bags per year. (

Most of them go straight to our landfill and a very small percentage of plastic bags are actually recycled. A reduction in our use of plastic bags is essential in solving the environmental problems stemming from them.

Here are the reasons why you should limit your consumption of plastic bags:

1. Plastic bags and packaging account for a major part of our waste in landfills. More importantly, plastic bags are one of the top items of litter on our community beaches, roads, sidewalks, and vegetation along with cigarette butts and Styrofoam. Plastic bags are light and hard to contain. Because of their light weight, plastic bags fly easily in wind, float along readily in the currents of rivers and oceans, get tangled up in trees, fences, poles, and so forth, and block the drainage. (

2. Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable natural resource: petroleum. Consequently, the manufacturing of plastic bags contributes to the diminishing availability of our natural resources and the damage to the environment from the extraction of petroleum. At the same time, plastics are hazardous to produce; the pollution from plastic production is harmful to the environment. Finally, most plastic bags are made of polyethylene - more commonly known as polythene - they are hazardous to manufacture and are said to take up to 1,000 years to decompose on land and 450 years in water. (

The fact that plastics are not biodegradable means that the plastic bags in circulation and future production of plastic bags will stay with us for a long time: in our landfills, oceans, streets, and so forth.

3. Countless plastic bags end up in our ocean and cause harm to our marine wildlife. Many marine animals and birds mistakenly ingest plastic or become entangled and choke in plastic bags that is floating around. For instance, environmentalists have pointed out that turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and invariably swallow them. It is estimated 100,000 marine mammals die each year because of plastic litter in our ocean in the North Pacific. (

Land animals seem to be victims as well. In countries such as India, cows are mistakenly ingesting plastic bags on the streets as they are scavenging for food and end up choking or starving to death, as the plastic cannot be digested.

4. There is virtually no market for recycling plastic bags. Very few recycling centers accept plastic bags because they are of little recyclable value. Although your local supermarkets collect used plastic bags for recycle, very few are actually recycled. (

5. On the other hand, most paper bags are made from recycled paper. There is a profitable market in paper recycling and the paper bags can be used and recycled. In addition, this promotes "Buying Recycled" which is the only way that recycling efforts will ever become successful

6. There are many cost effective and convenient alternatives to plastic bags. Paper bags hold more than plastic bags. One paper bag has the capacity of as many as three to four plastic bags. The best alternative to using plastic bags is using cloth bags and degradable bags.

7. Businesses will save on cost in providing plastic bags when consumers use less of them and bring their own bags.

8. The international crisis, which plastic bags are creating, is indicated by the fact that most nations recognize the problem and are making strong attempts to eliminate the use and productions of plastic bags. Many countries in Europe and Asia are attempting to eradicate plastic bags. Some are banning plastic bags altogether while others are implementing a tax on plastic bags to decrease their use. In Bangladesh, plastic bags have been banned completely since early 2002. They were found to have been the main culprit during the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country. The problem was that discarded bags were choking the drainage system. (

In 2001, Bombay council also eliminated the use of plastic bags to prevent them from littering the streets and clogging up the city's sewerage system. As a result, merchants have switched to recycled paper bags and litter in the city has been reduced considerably.

In Ireland, a tax on plastic bags was introduced. Essentially, each plastic bag handed out costs the consumer an extra 15 cents. After the tax scheme began in March 2002, it is estimated the plastic bags available at stores have been decreased by 90\%.

These are great success stories from various countries working out the problem of plastic bags. They have set examples on how a ban or a tax on plastic bags may work. Consequently, other nations such as the United Kingdom are considering implementing similar regulations.

The most effective way of reducing the amount of plastic litter in the environment is to reduce our consumption. As consumers, we should not wait for our governments to tackle the problem of plastic bags. Change ultimately comes from everyone be it from to law restrictions of our government or from our own volition. Moreover, the most important contribution to such a campaign must come from the consumer.
-Report of the Berkeley Plastics Task Force

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From ...

Plastic Bags Are Killing Us
The most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, the lowly plastic bag is an environmental scourge like none other, sapping the life out of our oceans and thwarting our attempts to recycle it.
By Katharine Mieszkowski

REUTERS/Rafiqur Rahman

Aug. 10, 2007 | OAKLAND, Calif. -- On a foggy Tuesday morning, kids out of school for summer break are learning to sail on the waters of Lake Merritt. A great egret hunts for fish, while dozens of cormorants perch, drying their wings. But we're not here to bird-watch or go boating. Twice a week volunteers with the Lake Merritt Institute gather on these shores of the nation's oldest national wildlife refuge to fish trash out of the water, and one of their prime targets is plastic bags. Armed with gloves and nets with long handles, like the kind you'd use to fish leaves out of a backyard swimming pool, we take to the shores to seek our watery prey.

Dr. Richard Bailey, executive director of the institute, is most concerned about the bags that get waterlogged and sink to the bottom. "We have a lot of animals that live on the bottom: shrimp, shellfish, sponges," he says. "It's like you're eating at your dinner table and somebody comes along and throws a plastic tarp over your dinner table and you."

This morning, a turtle feeds serenely next to a half submerged Walgreens bag. The bag looks ghostly, ethereal even, floating, as if in some kind of purgatory suspended between its briefly useful past and its none-too-promising future. A bright blue bags floats just out of reach, while a duck cruises by. Here's a Ziploc bag, there a Safeway bag. In a couple of hours, I fish more than two dozen plastic bags out of the lake with my net, along with cigarette butts, candy wrappers and a soccer ball. As we work, numerous passersby on the popular trail that circles the urban lake shout their thanks, which is an undeniable boost. Yet I can't help being struck that our efforts represent a tiny drop in the ocean. If there's one thing we know about these plastic bags, it's that there are billions and billions more where they came from.

The plastic bag is an icon of convenience culture, by some estimates the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions. They're made from petroleum or natural gas with all the attendant environmental impacts of harvesting fossil fuels. One recent study found that the inks and colorants used on some bags contain lead, a toxin. Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags after they've been used to transport a prescription home from the drugstore or a quart of milk from the grocery store. It's equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.

Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide -- about 2 percent in the U.S. -- and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries. They can spend eternity in landfills, but that's not always the case. "They're so aerodynamic that even when they're properly disposed of in a trash can they can still blow away and become litter," says Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. It's as litter that plastic bags have the most baleful effect. And we're not talking about your everyday eyesore.

Once aloft, stray bags cartwheel down city streets, alight in trees, billow from fences like flags, clog storm drains, wash into rivers and bays and even end up in the ocean, washed out to sea. Bits of plastic bags have been found in the nests of albatrosses in the remote Midway Islands. Floating bags can look all too much like tasty jellyfish to hungry marine critters. According to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from eating or getting entangled in plastic. The conservation group estimates that 50 percent of all marine litter is some form of plastic. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. In the Northern Pacific Gyre, a great vortex of ocean currents, there's now a swirling mass of plastic trash about 1,000 miles off the coast of California, which spans an area that's twice the size of Texas, including fragments of plastic bags. There's six times as much plastic as biomass, including plankton and jellyfish, in the gyre. "It's an endless stream of incessant plastic particles everywhere you look," says Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of education and research for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which studies plastics in the marine environment. "Fifty or 60 years ago, there was no plastic out there."

Following the lead of countries like Ireland, Bangladesh, South Africa, Thailand and Taiwan, some U.S. cities are striking back against what they see as an expensive, wasteful and unnecessary mess. This year, San Francisco and Oakland outlawed the use of plastic bags in large grocery stores and pharmacies, permitting only paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content or otherwise compostable bags. The bans have not taken effect yet, but already the city of Oakland is being sued by an association of plastic bag manufacturers calling itself the Coalition to Support Plastic Bag Recycling. Meanwhile, other communities across the country, including Santa Monica, Calif., New Haven, Conn., Annapolis, Md., and Portland, Ore., are considering taking drastic legislative action against the bags. In Ireland, a now 22-cent tax on plastic bags has slashed their use by more than 90 percent since 2002. In flood-prone Bangladesh, where plastic bags choked drainage systems, the bags have been banned since 2002.

The problem with plastic bags isn't just where they end up, it's that they never seem to end. "All the plastic that has been made is still around in smaller and smaller pieces," says Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resource Foundation, which has undertaken a Campaign Against the Plastic Plague. Plastic doesn't biodegrade. That means unless they've been incinerated -- a noxious proposition -- every plastic bag you've ever used in your entire life, including all those bags that the newspaper arrives in on your doorstep, even on cloudless days when there isn't a sliver of a chance of rain, still exists in some form, even fragmented bits, and will exist long after you're dead.

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