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.