By J.G. Collins
Senator Hoylman and Assemblymember Epstein recently wrote of their efforts to save the planet’s oceans and prevent global warming by voting to ban plastic bags in New York State and to assess a five- cent tax on each paper bag shoppers use to carry products home.
Those of us with more modest ambitions than saving the planet and a closer focus on municipal and fiscal matters would simply like to reduce the estimated $400,000,000 per year the city spends exporting its solid waste.
Why are we stopping with plastic shopping bags? And why inconvenience and tax already-harried New Yorkers in their hectic workdays to think to carry shopping bags—plastic or otherwise—instead of putting the burden upstream, on producers and distributors of products packaged in plastic?
Plastic milk and juice bottles, plastic take-out containers, and the huge plastic containers of coffee and other dry commodities could be abandoned if the state government had the will to stand up to business lobbyists who would oppose such moves.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
All plastic carryout bags will be banned in stores throughout New York State starting on March 1. Under the new law, which passed last March, plastic carryout bags will not be distributed to consumers at any businesses that collect New York State sales tax, and stores will be implementing a five-cent paper carry-out bag fee.
The five-cent fee on paper bags will not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) recipients and all consumers are encouraged to bring their own bags to reduce waste. Film plastics will still be used on items such as bread bags, cases of water, paper towels and other similar items, and customers are encouraged to recycle those items at participating retailers.
There are still some bags that are exempt from the law and can still be distributed to customers under limited circumstances, including produce bags for fruits and vegetables and bags used by pharmacies for prescription drugs.
State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein were both cosponsors of bills that passed in the state legislature last year banning single-use plastic bags, and the elected officials penned an op-ed for Town & Village last week, outlining the ban’s importance for the environment.
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.