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Plastic Free Hudson River Act Unveiled In Troy

A plastic bag
Josh Landes

A new measure to reduce plastic pollution has been introduced by a Troy city councilor.

The new plan to limit polystyrene food containers, plastic straws, and single-use plastic bags was introduced Wednesday by Troy city council member David Bissember. The Democrat calls the measure called the Plastic Free Hudson River Act.

“Unfortunately plastics and polystyrene fall into our river, not only our river, but it pollutes our city streetways and alleyways as well,” said Bissember.

New York state’s own plastic bag ban goes into effect next year. Coinciding with the statewide plan, Troy’s measure would opt the city into a 5-cent fee on paper bags.

Plastic straws would still be available upon customer request under the plan.

The measure intends to assist small businesses with the change by giving restaurants with two or fewer locations the ability to apply for a one-year exemption on the polystyrene ban.

“Businesses already have to comply with the statewide plastic bags ban by March 2020 and the provisions related to polystyrene in my bill are further staggered over a two-year period, which gives small businesses additional time to prepare for these provisions,” said Bissember.

Renee Panetta, the city’s Recycling Coordinator, says keeping the plastics out of the waste stream is important as landfill space dwindles.

“They’re very light materials but they take up a lot of landfill space. So people will still be able to recycle their film plastics, although not in the recycling bins – which diminishes volume going to the landfill. And then by us removing the volume of polystyrene that goes to the landfill, that will also have an additional environmental impact,” said Panetta.

Panetta says the measure, developed in conjunction with the mayor’s office and the group Troy Zero Waste, also complies with the city’s yet-to-be-submitted Solid Waste Plan.

Within that plan, there’s a component to provide education and outreach.

“Within that education outreach, that’s going to encompass anything from educating about recycling itself, to specific materials handling, to how household hazardous wastes are handled. And that’s going to be throughout the community,” said Panetta.

Panetta says a portion of the 5-cent paper bag fee would go toward providing reusable bags to Troy residents in need.

Other Capital Region communities are considering their own measures to reduce plastic pollution.

Last week, the Albany County legislature held public hearings on measures that would reduce the use of plastic bags and require that restaurants provide straws and plastic cutlery only upon request.

A measure to ban plastic straws brought before the Schenectady City Council was tabled recently as the city seeks more input from local business owners.

Bissember, who chairs the city council’s General Services Committee, plans to introduce the Plastic Free Hudson River Act to the committee next Thursday, August 8th.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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