Rochester, N.Y. – Every winter when the first snowfall melts, the landscape is dotted with litter. Much of it is plastic bags.
“I see plastic bags everywhere. They’re ubiquitous,” said Arthur Rothfuss, whose hobby is photographing litter. Rothfuss is concerned about the harm plastic bags cause the environment, as many get into waterways and are ingested by wildlife.
13WHAM News saw plastic bags littering the onramps to the Inner Loop and Route 490. They were stuck in fences along North Clinton Ave. and hung in trees on Troup St. Numerous plastic bags were on the ground in lot across from a retail plaza on Hudson Ave. in Irondequoit.
Efforts to pass a plastic bag ban or impose a surcharge on plastic bags have failed in New York State. The state did pass a law a few years ago requiring large retailers to accept bags for recycling.
Some New York communities have imposed plastic bag bans, including Rye and Mamaroneck. But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon in the Rochester area. Mayor Tom Richards and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks are not wild about the idea.
“We’ve talked to different individual retailers. I don’t think we’ve gotten as far as a ban,” said Brooks, who added the county started accepting plastic bags for recycling. “The recycling effort is a first step and we hope that will eliminate some of the problem.”
“If we’re going to get away from plastic bags it’s going to have to be on a broader basis than just the city to be effective,” said Richards. “But I agree with you. They do look like the dickens.”
Richards said we wouldn’t have this problem if people stopped littering plastic bags.
Wegmans has been a leader in getting consumers to cut down on plastic bag use or stop using them altogether. Since the store introduced reusable bags, each store is saving approximately 5,000 plastic bags a day.
“I like some of the ideas where stores will charge for bags and encourage people to bring their own or to reuse the ones that they already have,” said Rothfuss.