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Drowning in bags

Joe Wagner talks to Susanne Gaillgan, also known as the 'Bag Monster,' who has 500 plastic bags attached to her costume, at the Earth Day 2018 event in April in Glens Falls City Park. Warren County is considering a plastic bag ban.

Warren County’s proposal to ban stores from distributing single-use plastic bags is getting mixed reviews from the merchants who will be affected by it.

The proposed law, which would take effect Jan. 1 if passed by the county Board of Supervisors, will be the subject of public hearings on Sept. 19 and Sept. 21 at the Warren County Municipal Center. Warren County is the only local county to push for a bag ban.

It would require stores and their patrons to come up with alternatives for the ubiquitous plastic bags that have become a staple of grocery, department store and convenience store shopping. They are an environmental problem on land and in water, and communities around the country have taken up possible bans or other laws to lessen their impact.

Companies that have stores in the county had a variety of reactions to the proposal, as well as suggestions for improvements to it.

Mona Golub, Price Chopper/Market 32’s vice president of public relations, said the company has concerns about Warren County’s legislation, and believes there are other ways to address plastic bag-related concerns.

Laws that have been passed that require stores to charge shoppers for bags, with a 5-cent fee the typical price, have proved more successful at getting shoppers to change their habits, Golub said. Price Chopper/Market 32 has a longstanding policy of crediting shoppers 3 cents for each reusable bag they use.

She pointed to the move by Suffolk County legislators that established a charge for single-use bags, similar laws in California and others under development elsewhere in New York. Those laws have resulted in reductions in plastic bag use by 70 percent or more.

That type of law has shown success in spurring people to find alternatives like reusable bags, because it saves them money, she said.

While she said that getting people to stop using plastic bags is a “noble” cause, pushing people back to paper bags is not environmentally friendly, and “patchwork legislation” around the state will confuse people.

“It creates unevenness on the competitive landscape,” she said. “Statewide legislation is what we’re hoping for.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a statewide ban earlier this year, but it did not make it through the Legislature.

Eric Bloom, a spokesman for Maine-based Hannaford, which has stores around the Northeast, said the company deals with a variety of bag rules at its store locations and adjusts as it needs to. The chain encourages the use of reusable bags, he said.

“We make it work for our customers,” he explained.

Bloom added that the company doesn’t take a position on bag laws, as it is a “local decision.”

A spokeswoman for Target said the chain adjusts to local laws as it operates its stores, and already offers alternatives to plastic bags and encourages recycling of plastic bags at kiosks in the front of its stores.

“Every store offers an alternative to plastic bags, including paper bags or reusable plastic bags for purchase. In an effort to promote the use of reusable bags and keep more plastic bags out of landfills, Target gives guests a 5-cent discount for each reusable bag used at all of our stores,” said spokeswoman Kali Dingman.

Mike West, whose family operates The Crossroads Country Store & Sport Shop in Chester, said his store would adjust to what the law requires.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “If it comes down to it, we’d probably push reusable bags. I think everybody would get used to it.”

A woman who answered the phone at Pottersville Mini Mart, just off Exit 26, said she had not heard about the proposed law change. But she said her store would make changes if the law required it to do so.

An inquiry to Walmart’s corporate media office was not returned this week.

The Warren County public hearings will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 and 10 a.m. on Sept. 21 at the county Board of Supervisors room in the Municipal Center on Route 9 in Queensbury.

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reporter

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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