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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Single-Use Plastics Bill a Reflection of Personal Responsibility


The Suffolk County Legislature closed a public hearing at Tuesday’s general meeting on I.R. 1371, a bill sponsored by Legislator Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) that would ban restaurants and food delivery services from issuing single-use plastic utensils and condiment packets unless requested by the customer.

To say we’re conflicted on this matter is an understatement. As stated by Englebright and others at the general meeting, the most important “R” of the “Three R’s” is “reduce.” We would agree that many of our waste and pollution problems would be abated simply by reduction.
We also don’t think that adding a step to add utensils to a mobile order is the world’s biggest inconvenience, especially in light of the problem.

But where our conflicts lie is the role of government in this case. The basic mantra is: if people took more personal responsibility and did their part, we wouldn’t need legislation like this.

Majority Leader Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) invoked this logic at the meeting. At the end of the day, litterers will still litter, whether they requested the utensils in their fast food order or not. Plastic forks and empty ketchup packets still end up out the window, on our beaches, or scattered in the streets. Legislation should not be used to change behaviors. We understand times are difficult, especially as microplastics continue to invade every tenet of our health, but it’s a sad reflection on society that responsibility must be legislated from a governing body rather than implicitly understood by the public.

We don’t blame Suffolk County for the lapse in personal responsibility in certain corners of society. We blame them on the overall, far-reaching, nihilistic worldviews perpetrated by society’s largest stakeholders. The truth is, Americans have had it too good for too long. We’re used to the government rushing in to fix every problem that we’ve forgotten that’s not the classical purpose of government. Personal responsibility is no longer the way to live your life, consequences be damned. We opened a door long ago that effectively makes us okay with the government utilizing its power to legislate change in habits and behavior.

We’d say that we’re less comfortable with the precedent and the current state of society than we are with the core aspects of this legislation.
We will, however, take chagrin at what some of the speakers at the horseshoe said. There is, in fact, no Pacific “garbage patch” that is “twice the size of Texas.” It’s a marketing strategy to illustrate the importance of microplastics in the ocean. Passing it off as fact is disingenuous and only diminishes any positive effects this type of legislation can have.

The Editorial Board
The Editorial Boardhttps://www.messengerpapers.com
The Messenger Papers Editorial Board aspires to represent a fair cross section of our Suffolk County readers. We work to present a moderate view on issues facing Long Island families and businesses.