UES Students Push to Ban Plastic Bags Citywide

By Victoria Bekiempis on March 1, 2013 8:47am 

UPPER EAST SIDE — They want to trash bags.

Students from The Hewitt School, a private school on the Upper East Side, are trying to get the city to sack the use of plastic bags. 

Organizers will hold a conference on Saturday to discuss banning single-use plastic sacks across all five boroughs, organizers said.

"Ban the Bag" — which will take place on Hewitt's campus, 45 E. 75th St., from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m — features a panel discussion, including area politicians such as Councilman Brad Lander and Ron Gonen, the deputy commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability at the Department of Sanitation.

The aim of the conference is to raise awareness about plastic bag pollution and have participants sign petitions to their City Council members — with the ultimate goal that a bag ban ordinance be passed, organizers said.

Other experts include Jennie Romer, environmental activist and founding director of plasticbaglaws.org, who is said to be instrumental in instituting San Francisco's bag ban, and Eric Goldstein, New York City environmental director for the Natural Resource Defense Council, will also be present.

Workshops on how to petition to ban the bag — as to prevent pollution, organizers said — will be scheduled throughout the day.

A documentary on the topic, "Bag It," will also be screened during the festivities, for which registration is available online. The event is open to students from the eight grade, and many of the expected 200 attendees will be from other schools in the city, organizers said.

The conference was spearheaded by the school's earth committee and developed in partnership with the Green Schools Alliance, organizers said.

Committee co-presidents Jocelyn Goldberg and Caroline Hoffman said they were inspired to put together the conference upon learning that New York — unlike other major U.S. cities — was unique in not implementing a ban or bag tax.

"We've been working hard for a long time," said Goldberg, a 17-year-old senior. "The idea in itself is empowering because we're trying to get a petition."

Hoffman — who pointed out that the event is entirely student-run, down to the social media and graphic design — credited "Bag It" as being integral to their initiative.

"It's a great introduction to the subject," said Hoffman, a 17-year-old junior.

Joan Wolf, faculty advisor to the committee, said that the event was excellent in that it provides hands-on educational experience.

"It's not just learning," Wolf said. "There's a doing portion."

Wolf added that there's also an element of fun — two participants dressed as "Bag Monster," a costume made out of plastic bags, will be on hand.

"They will greet the attendees," Wolf said, explaining that the monster's presence was directly at the behest of committee members.

"They loved the costume so much, they insisted I order two."

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