This summer BYOB has a new meaning in Ulster County: Bring Your Own Bag. As of July 15, the county’s new Bring Your Own Bag Act goes into effect, requiring that shops and businesses stop offering plastic bags and charge a five-cents fee for paper (waived for those on assistance programs).
The goal is to reduce the harmful effects of plastic pollution: fewer windswept bags tumbling across roads, left behind at campsites, or spending generations in a landfill.
But how will the bag ban affect small businesses?
Some retailers anticipate a learning curve for customers, but most are optimistic about the law’s long-term benefits.
“We’ve never used plastic bags, mainly because of the environmental impact,” says Jesse Post of Postmark Books in Rosendale. “The amount of needless plastic waste in the world is horrific, especially when you look at how much of it winds up in the oceans.”
Emmanuel Gerondaras, of Stone Ridge’s Emmanuel’s Marketplace, supports the ban. “Laws like this have been in place in Europe for years, so it was only a matter of time,” Gerondaras says. “We recently gave away 5,000 totes hoping to persuade customers to use reusable, but I think they’ll be understanding of the fee if they choose paper.”
New Paltz has had a plastic bag ban in effect since 2015. Shops like Manny’s Art Supply and Pegasus Shoes only ever used paper; others, like Rock Candy Vintage, say they’d avoid plastic even if it wasn’t a requirement. “Vintage clothing is an environmentally friendly business, so it only makes sense to stay true to that as much as possible,” says owner Candace Schuster.
However advantageous the law may be, there is inevitably a learning curve. Karen Clark Adin, owner of Kingston boutique Bop to Tottom, doesn’t see the ban affecting her business unless there is a lack of public education. “Where this law gets tricky,” she says, “is that Ulster County has determined that those on government assistance will not have to pay the fee for paper, but how are we supposed to know who and who isn’t on assistance? That is the only issue I see affecting us.”
Who says reusable needs to be boring? Here are just a few Ulster County retailers offering fun and funky totes.
Photos courtesy of Emerson Country Store
Find Emerson logo bags ($6) or designer carry-alls ($20 and up) at this Best of Hudson Valley-winning boutique.
Photos by Karen Clark Adin
This Uptown shop offers totes in canvas ($5), polyester ($10), recycled material ($12), and more.
Find vintage and locally made reusables. Vintage price varies; newer totes run $22 and up.
Photo by Melissa Dempsey
Ripstop nylon bags that fold into their own pouches hold plenty of groceries without taking up much space when stored ($10).