Retailers would have to charge customers at least 10 cents for each bag they get to bring home groceries and other items, under a bill that will be introduced in the City Council today, Aug. 22, in an effort to protect the environment from plastic bag waste.
Although plastic bags are the target, paper bags are included in the bill to reduce overall bag use.
The fee would not be a deposit, and merchants would keep it. Restaurants would be exempt, as would street vendors selling prepared food. There would be no charge for bags used within stores, such as those for cold cuts and prescriptions.
Stores would have to waive the fee for customers using food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and food pantries would be exempt.
Authored by Council members Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan), the bill is cosponsored by seven other lawmakers, including two Queens councilmen, Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), and supported by a slew of environmental groups.
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.
“This bill incentivizes customers to bring their own reusable bags and think twice before reaching for paper or plastic ones, which will cut back on pollution and ultimately protect New York City’s invaluable green spaces and waterways that have been under threat too long,” Chin said at a Tuesday press conference announcing the bill.
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.
— Peter C. Mastrosimone