A bill designed to protect the environment and reduce the city’s waste disposal costs by discouraging the use of paper and plastic bags by shoppers is back on the City Council’s agenda, after failing to pass committee last year.
The measure would force stores to charge most customers 10 cents per bag, and is meant to encourage shoppers to use recyclable ones instead. Although the fee would be applied to both paper and plastic bags, the main goal is to cut down on the latter because of the damage they do. People using funds from public assistance programs would be exempt.
Backers say New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags a year, with most not recycled, and that it costs the city about $10 million to ship 100,000 pounds of used bags to landfills. Many wind up flying around loose on the streets, clogging storm drains and thus contributing to water and sewage overflows that further tax the environment, they say.
Authored by Council members Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), the measure has 17 co-sponsors, just about twice as many as it did last year. Its text remains unchanged.
Similar laws in other cities have reduced plastic bag use by as much as 90 percent, the bill’s supporters said. Washington, DC imposes a 10-cent tax on bags, while Los Angeles and San Francisco have banned them outright. Mayor Bloomberg sought a tax on them several years ago, but could not get the required state legislative approval.
Among the bill’s supporters in Queens is Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the majority leader.
“Plastic bags account for 250 tons of trash every single day in our City,” Van Bramer said in an emailed statement. “This is a common sense and green piece of legislation that reduces waste and saves taxpayer dollars.”
On the other side of the proposal is Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).
“Plainly speaking, the plastic bag fee is just another back door tax that I cannot support,” Ulrich said, also via email. “My constituents already pay enough in taxes, fines and fees and don’t need the city thinking of more ways to take away their hard earned money.”
Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, declined to comment before seeing the bill.
The New York League of Conservation Voters was glad to issue a statement in support.
“This legislation will dramatically reduce the use of polluting plastic bags and attack a persistent environmental problem — without costing taxpayers a single penny,” said Marcia Bystryn, the NYLCV president. “Experience has shown this innovative, market-based approach works wonders in other cities and it will work in New York City too.”