TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — A committee of Tompkins County Legislature passed a resolution calling for New York to ban plastic shopping bags, as a way to cut down on plastic waste.

Americans use an estimated 100 billion lightweight single-use plastic retails bags, the resolution states, and 95 percent of those end up in the garbage, as litter or they contaminate recycling.

A ban on plastic bags is a resurfacing issue in Tompkins County. In 2013, legislators considered a local law to ban them, but ultimately it was decided that the measure should be pursued at a state level.

Legislators on the Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee discussed calling for a statewide ban Monday and unanimously supported the resolution.

The resolution calls on New York to ban retailers from providing single-use plastic bags. Instead, retailers would adopt a fee for recyclable paper bags. Reusable bags are already for sale at most retailers.

The call for a ban comes after a recent report released by the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force. The group examined the impact of single-use plastic bags, noting they have become a “ubiquitous sight on the landscape.”

The average family uses 1,500 single-use plastic bags a year, the report says, and they are used for an average of 12 minutes each.

Brian Eden, chair of the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, said millions of Americans live in jurisdictions that have some kind of plastic bag ban or fee. Banning plastic bags is “eminently doable,” he said. The EMC has been engaged in this issue for more than a decade.

In a memo to the committee, the EMC said the resolution does not cover in-store use of plastic bags for other items like vegetables or deli products. It also does not include garbage bags or bags for laundry collection.

Though the plastic bags can be recycled, it is not as simple as tossing them in with other recyclables. They must be collected and recycled through a separate recovery program and process.

Read the full report on plastic bags here and the draft resolution here.

Trash incinerator, NYSEG pipeline alternative and other notes

In other news, the Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee unanimously supported a resolution opposing the proposed garbage incinerator in Romulus.

A company called Circular Energy has proposed building a large garbage incinerator in Romulus in Seneca County. The resolution cites concerns about the pollution coming from the facility, especially since it would be located 3,200 feet from a school and in close proximity to the Hillside Children’s Center, the Five Points Correctional Facility, the Seneca County Jail and the Willard Drug Treatment Center. It will also draw 445,000 gallons of water from Seneca Lake per day, the resolution states.

Committee members also unanimously supported a resolution opposing the use of compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas as New York State Electric and Gas has a request for proposals out for a non-pipe alternative.

In November, the New York State Public Service Commission approved NYSEG’s compressor pilot project as an alternative to a previously proposed natural gas pipeline. A solution is needed to meet the demand for the local energy needs. After approval, NYSEG issued a request for proposals for non-pipe alternatives. In the request, legislators noticed language that says “Resources may be in the form of any or all of the following resource types … introduction of CNG, LNG to the extent allowed and supported by the community.”

Related: NYSEG approved to move ahead with alternative to pipeline in Tompkins

While legislators support an alternative to the pipeline, they said they do not support any proposal that would use CNG and LNG, as that would result in expanded use of natural gas. Doing so would not fall in line with the county’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decrease use of natural gas.

Legislator Anna Kelles said the resolution is a “shot across the bow publicly saying this is not acceptable to us.”

All resolutions move to the full Legislature for approval.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.