By State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein
We’ve all seen single-use plastic bags littered throughout New York City. They get stuck in trees, clutter up parks and sidewalks and wash up on the shores of the East River.
The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually. Their usage is so widespread that EPA estimates there will be more plastic than fish in our planet’s oceans by the year 2050.
In fact, discarded single-use plastic bags are the main component of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a free-floating island twice the size of Texas that is a proven hosts for microbes and toxic pesticides that often end up in our food.
Plastic bags pollute our waterways and oceans, causing harm to marine life by choking them or building up their stomachs. Producing plastic bags is a huge contributor to our current recycling crisis, and causes the release of harmful greenhouse gases, which drives the historic and dangerous warming of our planet.
City University of New York students, education advocates and local elected officials rallied on the Baruch Plaza at Lexington Avenue and East 25th Street last Thursday, protesting tuition hikes for CUNY students.
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein argued at the rally that more money should be allocated to the city and state university systems, and also said that bills he has introduced would help provide that funding.
One piece of legislation from Epstein, which is co-sponsored by Assemblymember Dick Gottfried, would impose a 2% sales tax on various luxury items, including vehicles, jewelry and clothing over a certain amount, and the tax would be distributed equally to SUNY and CUNY. Another bill would increase taxes on beer and would direct the revenue generated from the tax to SUNY and CUNY, with Epstein noting that New York currently has one of the lowest beer taxes in the country. The bill would increase the tax to 30 cents per gallon, up from 14.