plastic bags
Plastic one-use shopping bags are everywhere.

The North Fork’s hold-out on an East End single-use plastic bag ban may soon be a moot point. Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer of Centerport has introduced legislation that would ban plastic bags at a county level.

A public hearing on the proposed legislation will be held next Tuesday, March 22 at the Suffolk County Legislature’s headquarters on Veterans Memorial Highway in Smithtown.

Both Southampton and East Hampton towns enacted plastic bag bans last year, but Riverhead has barely addressed the idea, while Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell has said the matter should be taken up at the county level, despite more than a year of heated debate on the matter between the Southold Town Board and environmentalists.

Plastic bags are a particular nuisance in the marine environment, where they are often eaten by or entangle fish, shellfish, marine mammals and waterfowl.

The North Fork Audubon Society was at the forefront of the effort to ban the bags in Southold Town, and they are planning to facilitate car pooling to the March 22 public hearing.

The county-wide proposal was spurred on by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a Farmingville-based environmental advocacy group.

“There is a global movement away from disposable bags, and countries around the world have chosen to make the switch to reusable bags,” said members of CCE in a letter to supporters asking them to push for the county-wide bag ban. “Bans and fees have been shown to dramatically reduce disposable bag use, and the Village of Patchogue, Town of East Hampton, and Town of Southampton have already banned plastic bags. Now, we need Suffolk County to be a leader and pass legislation to encourage “BYOBag” behavior.”

In Southampton and East Hampton towns, no plastic bags can be used for items purchased at checkout counters throughout both towns, though vegetable bags and bags used to wrap fish and meat are still permitted. Paper and reusable grocery bags are being used (or sold) at many stores, and patrons are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags.

The North Fork Environmental Council joined in support of the county-wide ban this week, asking members to write to the legislature so their comments can be included in the public record.

“We have water all around us with finfish and shellfish living in those waters and waterfowl living on those fish. But our beaches and waters are fowled with single-use plastic bags which NEVER fully decompose — they just turn into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic which are ingested by finfish, shellfish, birds and even plankton…some of which we in turn ingest,” said members of the NFEC board.

Letters can be sent to

Jason A. Richberg
Clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature
W.H. Rogers Legislative Building
725 Veterans Memorial Highway
Smithtown, NY 11787

The Suffolk County Legislature’s March 22 meeting, at which the public hearing will be held, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the legislature’s headquarters at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway in Smithtown.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you're human: