NEW YORK’S NEW PLASTIC BAN, AND WHAT’S TO BE EXPECTED
March 15, 2020
A new law was put in place on March 1, 2020, to ban most carryout plastic bags given out by retailers. This bill was signed by New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, on April 22nd, or “Earth Day.” The bill, in the spirit of “Earth Day,” promotes clean living and a healthy, sustainable habitat for people and wildlife alike. On the previous Earth Day, Andrew Cuomo stated, "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we're putting an end to this blight on our environment." The bill is predicted to have a large impact on the environment and the lives of all New Yorkers.
The bill’s official title is the “Bag Waste Reduction” law. It states, “No person required to collect tax shall distribute any plastic carryout bags to its customers unless such bags are exempt bags…” In short, most stores will not be able to distribute plastic bags to its customers. Although distribution is banned, customers are permitted to bring any type of bag of their own. In addition to this plastic bag ban, a reduction fee for paper bags will be imposed. This means that paper bags distributed by retailers will now cost five cents per paper bag. The charge for paper bags is meant to discourage most distribution of bags by retailers and to encourage consumers to reuse bags.
Although this ban is meant to promote change for the better, many people fear that New York is not prepared for it; they fear the legislation will have more negative effects than positive ones, both economically and environmentally. A big problem is that not all businesses are aware and prepared for this ban. City council members Ydanis Rodríguez and Mark Gjonaj, along with concerned store owners, recently rallied on the steps of City Hall to demand the bag ban be delayed until stakeholders were better educated and plastic bag alternatives could be better sourced.
Both small businesses and big businesses will be affected. A large cause for concern are the 30 companies in New York State that manufacture plastic bags; more than 1,500 employees will suffer when the ban takes effect. Environmental experts say that getting rid of plastic is not an efficient way to help the environment, as other bags could potentially be worse than plastic. One study reports that plastic grocery bags consume 40 percent less energy during production and generate 80 percent less solid waste than paper bags. Another study showed that to offset the initial carbon footprint of a cotton tote bag, one would have to reuse it 173 times. However, people typically only use cotton tote bags 15 times before discarding them because they get dirty. Furthermore, a study done by the University of Arizona found that 51% of all reusable bags contained coliform bacteria, and 12% contained E. coli, indicating the presence of fecal matter and other pathogens. A survey conducted in California and Arizona indicated that 97% of individuals never washed their reusable bags.
So while banning plastic bags is a great way to protect the environment in theory, other things must be taken into consideration with this ban. That is not to say that this bill will not improve the environment at all. However, economic and environmental repercussions of this bill could potentially make things worse rather than better.
“On Earth Day, Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags in New York.” New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. April 22, 2019
“Title 28, Bag Waste Reduction, Environmental Conservation (ENV).” The New York State Senate
Kathleen Culliton. “NYC Isn't Ready For The Plastic Bag Ban, Lawmakers Say.” The Patch. February 20, 2020
Angela Logomasini. “Another Voice: Banning plastic bags will hurt businesses, consumers.” The Buffalo News. February 6, 2019
Kyle SMith. “Plastic-Bag Bans Are Bad for the Environment.” The National Review. February 7, 2020
“Plastic Bags are the Healthier Option – for Families and the Environment.” Bag the Ban.