Opinion: New York’s new plastic bag ban

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.

To address this major environmental crisis, the New York State Legislature passed historic legislation in 2019 to ban single-use plastic bags, defeating Big Plastic and other corporate special interests that blocked this legislation for years. Both of us were proud to support this legislation in the Senate and Assembly, and ensure it was passed into law.

Now, as of March 1, 2020, the new ban on most plastic bags will go into effect. You’ll no longer see plastic bags in the checkout aisle when you pay for groceries at the supermarket.

What does it mean for New Yorkers?

You’ll still be able to carry your groceries or other purchases. You can bring your own reusable bag from home, or purchase a paper bag for a small 5-cent charge. It will also allow New Yorkers to continue using plastic bags at dry cleaners and take-out restaurants. But you will no longer be able to get a free, single-use plastic bag when leaving a supermarket, deli or superstore.

This new law is an important step in our efforts to clean up our city and address the ongoing climate crisis. It’s time to end our throw-away attitude on plastic bags and move to a more sustainable future for consumers and the environment alike.

Tackling climate change is a monumental task; one that will take broad societal change and cooperation to accomplish. While one plastic bag here or there might seem like a small change, reducing our use of plastic bags statewide is a huge step towards reducing our impact on the only home we have.

The work to protect our environment doesn’t end there. This year, we are both working in the State Legislature on additional legislation that reduces our use of other harmful single-use plastics, such as straws and stirrers, to continue to encourage sustainability.

For now, mark your calendar for March 1, the first day this new law takes effect. If you have any questions on this important issue — or if you’d like a reusable tote bag from one of our offices —reach out to Senator Hoylman at (212) 633-8052 or Assembly Member Epstein at (212) 979-9696 so we can answer your questions and connect you with further resources.

State Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Epstein represent Manhattan in the New York State Legislature.

28 thoughts on “Opinion: New York’s new plastic bag ban

  1. I do my shopping out of state and bring the plastic bags back with me. I re-use them as garbage bags as did most people.I save a bunch of money too. Win, win for me. Lose, lose for NYC. Keep driving people out of the city/state Brad. At least NY is first at something, however, I don’t think driving people away is something other states emulate.

    • This is an environmental issue NOT a New York issue.So you drive to NJ to shop, guess what they are also getting rid of plastic bags.So you claim to shop out of state is a LIE.

      • I shop in PA. so no worries, but FYI NJ is NOT banning plastic bags as they voted it down. If it’s an environmental issue, then clearly, paper bags and re-useable cotton bags are tons worse for the environment than are plastic bags. So ,NY would be on the wrong side of science again.

        • You hitchhike all the way to PA to shop, you are an idiot. NJ does charge you for plastic bags. How would you know they voted it down, since you shop in PA.

        • Sorry Tom I thought you were an adult. No, I don’t hitchhike all the way to PA. I drive a car. When you get bigger you will know what those are.They’re a bigger version of your Matchbox toys. Another thing you will learn about is called the internet. You can look up things like the fact that NJ voted down a fee on plastic bags. You’re daddy probably uses the internet for his porn viewing, see if he will let you use it and you can look things up and not be wrong all the time.

  2. My hiking club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, does a beach cleanup every year at Fire Island National Seashore and at various beaches on Staten Island. In addition to the plastic bags, we pick up hundreds of empty plastic water bottles. Another item which nobody speaks about and which we collect many hundreds are the mylar balloons. Whether ’Happy Birthday’ or ‘Happy Graduation’ or ’Sweet 16’; whatever it might be, these items are as voluminous on the beaches as the plastic bags. I don’t know if a five cent deposit on this item will make any difference, but it’s a start.

  3. I think it is an excellent idea to ban single-use plastic bags. They are a terrible source of litter and very dangerous to marine life. I wish they would ban the use of tiny micro beads in cosmetics. These things are found mostly in facial washes and body scrubs. They get into the lakes and rivers and into the fish and eventually into us when we eat fish. Some states are already banning these things. It’s about time NYS did, too.

  4. In this economy, with unemployment, underemployment, crazy rents and high food costs, paying 5 cents per bag will be an accumulated extra cost,
    this is nickel and dime-ing people to death.
    It will be a hardship for many, as many people use these bags as garbage bags.
    Now in addition to paying for the bags, heard working people will have to pay to
    throw out their garbage.
    The money for the bags goes to the store to do with as they wish.
    Trader Joes has biodegradable produce bags – why not rather impose a law to make
    biodegradable bags, rather than penalize financially overburdened people some more.

  5. Let’s tackle the item instead of the issue…duh. Illegal dumping is the issue not bringing home groceries and reusing the bags as garbage bags. There has been zero affect in places where this ban has taken effect. It’s just another tax on the poor!

  6. But why are take-out restaurants exempted? They cause much more litter–plastic and otherwise–than supermarkets. Maybe because they’re a “different” special interest group (the kind you 2 fakers like to cater to)…?

  7. There is so much research showing how useless this is but this is one of my favorite lines. From a 2019 NPR article: A 2011 study by the U.K. government found a person would have to reuse a cotton tote bag 131 times before it was better for climate change than using a plastic grocery bag once. The Danish government recently did a study that took into account environmental impacts beyond simply greenhouse gas emissions, including water use, damage to ecosystems and air pollution. These factors make cloth bags even worse. They estimate you would have to use an organic cotton bag 20,000 times more than a plastic grocery bag to make using it better for the environment.

  8. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”–Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

  9. What a waste–of time and energy, and an abuse of political power. I have used plastic bags for one thing only afterward: Just to keep the refuse that I throw away bagged and neat. Now that I won’t be using them, by law, I and others will make the city much more dirty and unsanitary. And it’s getting dirtier under our “progressive” politicians. Just throw away your garbage without those nasty plastic bags.

  10. Eliminate plastic waaste in the ocean? Great idea but banning plastic shopping bags does not address the problem. If anything, it makes it worse. Let’s start by dispelling the myths about the source of plastic pollution.

    As multiple prior comments note, many – if not most – households reuse plastic shopping bags for household garbage can liners. Banning them will only cause them to be replaced by new plastic garbage bags which have a higher carbon footprint both when manufactured and when placed in proper (lined) landfills. Replacing reused shopping bags with new single-use garbage bags contributes to Global Wrming and climate change and does nothing to protect marine life when properly managed.

    So who really is responsible for that floating island? Researchers have detrmined that over half comes from discarded fiishing gear – nets, lines, etc. – discarded from commercial fishing boats. The remainder is primarily from dumping collected trash into the ocean rather than proper landfills. The researchers who published these studies call it “mismanaged trash”.

    Which is also the problem creating litter on the streets and at beaches. The number of available garbage cans on the streets and beaches has not kept pace with the increased population. Nor has frequency of garbage collection been increased to allow the existing garbage cans to control the spread of trash. I call that mismanaged trash.

    Bottom line: Banning plastic shopping bags only serves to give its supporters a sense of moral superiority whie ignoring the real solution.

  11. First things first. There’s no bag “ban”, as in they’re illegal to possess. Just that grocery stores and delis can give you them. At least until the law is reversed.

    Nothing to stop you from bringing your own. If you search Amazon or eBay for “T-shirt bags” (industry term), you’ll see you can buy a box of 1000 for about $20. Takes up about as much space as a ream of legal paper, or share them with neighbors.

    Like many, if not most, in PCVST, all my plastic bags get turned into garbage receptacles and thrown down the chute. Ironically though, when my “bag drawer” gets to overflowing, I could bring the excess to the store to be recycled. Not any more

  12. One potential consequence is that people may shop less. Since they will bring their own bags they may limit what they shop for and have less impulse purchases.

  13. Is Tom interested in a (supposed/self-described) “environmental issue,” or rather in social engineering, like Billionaire Bloomberg (who at last count owned 9 different private aircraft)? Would “less impulse purchases” somehow be beneficial to Tom…or to anyone else? Has he forgotten that we live in a Capitalist society? At least, so far…. The full consequences of this new law will likely surprise its proponents–and it won’t be a pleasant surprise. Do Epstein or Hoylman ever set foot in a supermarket themselves? Do they ever use mass transit?

  14. Latest update: The law will not be enforced for the time being.

    Apparently, paper bags are so hard to come by, virtually no stores have them, save for TJs and others that currently regularly order them. The suppliers are caught short and can’t fill their orders – even Catsimatidis can’t get his hands on any!

      • And rip and tear at the slightest hint of moisture.

        How I miss those good old days when the bottom tears open and all your groceries spill onto the sidewalk! A whole generation never got to experience that… until now.

        There’s a reason paper bags went away…

  15. Funny, BJ’s seems to have plenty of shoppers in spite of giving out no bags at all. Bringing a cloth or reinforced reusable plastic or laminated bag to shop is a hahit that anyone can acquire, and most of us have these already – tote bags, bags from our cable company, bags from holiday shopping, etc. That, plus all the accumulated plastic so-called single use bags, will supply us with carry power for a long time with no further purchases. Food doesnt need to be wrapped in plastic to be sold. Trash (as opposed to food garbage) doesn’t need to be wrapped in plastic to be disposed. And for unavoidable food waste, there are compostable bags that cost little.

    We use so much of our resources on one use items, packaging, and carelessness. We need to push ourselves to better habits.

    • You’re comparing Apples to Oranges. BJ’s Costco, Sams club etc dont give bags because you dont need them. Their stuff comes prepackaged for transport. Besides the fact that those re-usable cotton bags need to be used 20,000 times to be better for the environment than multi use plastic bags, the one thing that was noticed in all the places that have implemented the ban is that emergency rooms visits for food borne illnesses has skyrocketed. As a matter of fact, random tests have revealed that over 50% of the cotton bags that are being re-used have tested positive for e-coli. So not only are the multi-use plastic bags more convenient, more clean, more sanitized they are better for the environment and peoples health than the alternative. No wonder Holyman and Epstein favor this since they are both almost always on the WRONG side of everything!

  16. Pingback: What to know about the upcoming plastic bag ban | Town & Village

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