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Plastic bag ban takes effect to mixed reviews

Mike Desmond

A new state law barring plastic shopping bags went into effect Sunday. Many shoppers said they liked the plastic bags because they have many different second lives.

The bags are everywhere in winter. You can see them hanging off tree branches and just blowing around. There has long been a push to either eliminate their use or find a way to have them all recycled, which is why New York outlawed them.

The law can't be enforced because of a court challenge to the legislation, although education efforts will continue. At Broadway Mart, Sam said the customers weren't happy about the new law.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"We got heavy stuff over here we sell. They can't get in a brown bag, especially younger kids," he said. "They come over here, they buy stuff like two-liter pop, they can't get that in a brown bag. They're young. They want something to hold onto it and the plastic bag is the best thing."

At many other local stores, customers showed up with cloth bags or bought brown paper bags or heavier plastic bags inside. Michael Ahern said the law is a good thing.

"I'm in favor of it. I mean, I've been using the reusable bags for a long time. I think it's easier than the plastic bags," Ahern said. "But I know myself and a lot of people use the plastic bags multi-purpose. My mom uses it for kitty litter. I use it for other purposes. But, I think it's a good start."

Crystal came to the Aldi on Elmwood Avenue prepared for shopping.

"I had it in the car. I was prepared," she said. "I knew this was going to happen, so I always carry them with me."

Chris said she's not a great fan of the new law, but was prepared.

"It's a little inconvenient, but I'm okay with it," Chris said. "I have enough bags to carry me through, so I'm good with it."

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News

In his West Side store, Abdul Fadal had a pile of smaller brown paper bags next to the cash register and memories of a day of annoyed customers.

"Some of them say, 'No way.' Some of them get mad, but what are we going to do. That's the law," Fadal said.

Other smaller store merchants reported customers don't think the brown paper bags can carry the weight of what they are buying. Truck driver Courtney Williams said the law is unfair because the average citizen isn't the source of most of the bags.

"We need them. I mean, it's environmentally unsafe, but at the end of the day you have to look at where the bags are coming from," Williams said. "Like, how are they getting in the environment? You can't always blame it on the people that are putting the bags in the environment."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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