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State To Provide Reusable Bags To Food Pantries, Shelters Ahead Of Ban

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos speaks at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York
Lucas Willard
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos speaks at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York

With less than three weeks before New York’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is pushing to get the word out about the change.

Tuesday in Latham, inside the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, pallets of food are stacked to the ceiling ready to be distributed. The Food Bank supports homeless shelters and food pantries across 23 counties.

It was in this warehouse that state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos appeared with others to make an announcement: 225,000 reusable grocery bags would be provided by the state to the organizations that provide meals to those in need.

Mark Quandt is the Regional Food Bank’s Executive Director.

“If they need to use the food pantry, they’ll have bags that they can bring and they can fill and take back, so we keep those plastic bags out of landfills and out of our environment,” said Quandt.

The state’s ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect March 1st. Commissioner Seggos says a push is underway to ensure more New Yorkers are educated about the policy under which grocery stores and other retailers will no longer provide film-plastic shopping bags.

“We have increased our presence statewide, social media, print media, all over the airwaves reminding New Yorkers that the deadline is coming,” said Seggos.

Advocates for the bag ban predict there will be pushback – in part from shoppers who are not ready for the switch. Democratic state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of Albany spoke at the state capitol in late January.

“Behaviors will change, but it is going to be – we’re gonna probably get some negative feedback those first few weeks as we try to transition,” said Fahy.

Seggos says he believes retailers are ready for the bag ban to go into effect, but more events to educate the public will be held across New York in the coming days.

“New York City, Buffalo, Plattsburgh – get our leadership in place, go do events with food banks and with other retailers,” said Seggos.

Seggos also made another announcement in Latham: $4.3 million is being made available to support 111 projects to reduce food waste.

The money is meant for municipalities and organizations to help them comply with a state law that will go into effect in 2022, requiring large generators of food scraps to donate excess edible food and to recycle organic waste. Here’s Seggos…

“Ultimately, when we signed the Food Donation and Organics law last year, we knew that we needed to increase capacity around the state and process and handle more food,” said Seggos.

Projects supported can be as simple as providing food pantries with a new refrigerator to prevent spoilage, or replacing trucks or food delivery vehicles.

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