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Tarrytown Students Want Plastic-Bag Ban to Be Law

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – For some students at Sleepy Hollow Middle School, an environmental campaign is turning into a lesson on political and community lobbying.

Students in the Environmental Action Club have sent letters to village officials in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow pushing for a ban on plastic shopping bags. Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell visited the club on Thursday afternoon to discuss its proposed law and how to bring it to fruition.

“There's much more to think about than just if paper or plastic stays on the street,” Fixell said.

Recent actions taken by the City of Rye to ban plastic bags and a documentary on the hazardous environmental effects of plastic bags inspired the club to propose the ban. In addition to the law, the club has also been promoting the use of reusable bags, giving away several hundred to middle school students.

Fixell talked with students about the pros and cons of using plastic and paper bags, especially as it is viewed from a local government's perspective. Municipalities, he said, need to look at the environmental costs from all angles, including how both paper and plastic bags would be produced, transported and eliminated.

Although students are proposing a ban on plastic bags, Fixell said he was unsure of whether the villages could actually do that under New York State law. He also encouraged students to question why they were preferring paper over plastic, noting both are harmful to the environment.

The ideal law would be to place a tax or a fee on the use of a plastic or paper bags, Fixell said.

“A village like Tarrytown or Sleepy Hollow couldn't do that,” he added. The ability to create a tax or fee would rest with the state, or possibly the county, Fixell said.

Students in the club discussed ways they could motivate people to start using reusable bags after hearing what local village governments in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow could do and how people usually react to different types of laws.

Student Maya Evans noted that the Girl Scouts were collecting old T-shirts to make reusable bags. Club Advisor Michael Garguilo talked about ways they could work with local supermarkets to promote reusable bags.

Garguilo said after that the meeting was very educational for the club and wonderful for the kids to see their local government working on environmental issues. Garguilo said hearing from Fixell helped them refocus their efforts and energized them.

“We now have a new path to go down,” he said.

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