By ALINA SURIEL
Rye businesses that appeared to be noncompliant with the city’s 2011 ban on disposable plastic shopping bags are feeling the backlash from local residents and environmental advocates.
The Learning Express, a toy store on Purchase Street, has suffered complaints about the store’s use of plastic bags, but owner Jimmy Myers is quick to point out the bags the store uses are a type compliant with the Rye City ordinance.
“Everyone is trying to accuse me of breaking the law, which I never have done,” Myers said. “I pay extra for bags that follow the code for the convenience of my customers.”
Councilwoman Julie Killian, a Republican, confirmed Myer’s adherence to the ban with the thicker, reusable material in bags used at The Learning Express.
While complaints against The Learning Express are unfounded, not all stores are in the clear.
Patisserie Salzburg, a Purchase Street bakery, was using noncompliant plastic bags when owners were informed recently of a complaint filed against them. Since then, employees have stopped giving the offending bags out to customers, but the bakery is still searching for a viable alternative.
“It’s inconvenient,” a manager at the Patisserie, said. “Some of our cakes are heavy, and paper just doesn’t cut it.”
Rye became the first community in Westchester to ban the distribution of plastic bags when the ordinance was written into its municipal law in 2011. Since then, two other Westchester communities, the Village of Mamaroneck in 2012 and Village of Larchmont in 2013, have followed suit.
In Rye, failure to comply with the plastic bag ban can result in a fine of up to $150, although businesses can also be let off with a warning.
Other businesses on Purchase Street are able to thrive without relying on one-use plastic bags.
Andy Ozgur of Andy’s Pure Food said he didn’t like plastic bags even before they were outlawed.
“Before the ban, we used 80 percent paper bags anyway,” Ozgur said. “They’re almost the same; plastic’s not even cheaper.”
Members of the community had conflicting positions on whether or not they supported the statute. Some felt it infringed on store owner’s rights.
“It almost seems like it’s rather stringent,” Rye resident Josh Jacobs said. “It doesn’t give store owners the freedom to conduct business the way they want to, and that’s why I wouldn’t snitch. I don’t think it should be something mandated.”
Others were more conscious of how plastic bags may affect the Sound Shore, and were willing to give them up in stores.
“It’s not any more inconvenient, and I think it’s really important,” resident Laurel Stevens said. “It’s for the environment. It’s important to cut back on plastics.”
Resident Patricia Cote has another alternative.
“I carry my own bag,” she said. “I don’t use the paper bags that they give me, because they’re very flimsy.”
Westchester County Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat and business owner on Purchase Street, looked to the future of how residents will continue to adjust to the environmentally friendly abstinence of plastic.
“I do think that customers are glad to see that we’re a conscious community and we’re on the right path, especially being a Sound Shore community,” Parker said. “Those bags end up in our water. I think [the ban has] been a real success story in the past two years.”