Tote Bags: Suffolk County’s New Best Friend

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Nearly all stores provide free plastic bags with purchases. That's about to change.

Kathleen Esfahany, Science Editor

A new law will go into effect in January 2018: single-use plastic bags will carry a fee of five cents. Stores will likely be supportive of the law, since all revenue generated by the fee will be theirs to keep.

The Suffolk County Legislature passed this law with the hope of reducing plastic bag consumption. While environmentalists rejoice at the legislation, many Long Island residents are unsupportive of the fee because of their dependence on plastic bags in their daily lives. For example, pet-owners use plastic bags to pick up their pet’s waste. Others use plastic bags as garbage bags in smaller trash cans. Plastic bags are used by Ward Melville students to carry their gym sneakers and wet umbrellas. For these people, the new fee will not stop their plastic bag consumption, but it will most likely reduce it.

Nevertheless, this law marks an important step towards environmental-friendliness for Suffolk county. Nearly one trillion plastic bags are consumed annually around the world. Plastic bags take between several decades and several centuries to decompose, and therefore are extremely dangerous to the environment. When a plastic bag is dumped into a landfill or a body of water, it will stay there for centuries. Plastic bags are a threat to wildlife, especially in the ocean, where animals choke on these bags after mistaking them for food. As a coastal town, we are especially responsible for keeping plastic bags away from the ocean.

With the five cent fee, people are more likely to use reusable bags. Some alternatives to plastic bags are tote bags and boxes. Some tote bags are specially made to carry heavy loads without breaking. Others come with an insulation feature, so cold foods can be kept at a safe temperature on their journey from the store to your fridge. In the coming years, we may also see an increase in the use of biodegradable plastic bags.