An end for plastic shopping bags in New York?

plastic shopping bags

Paper or... reusable?

On Monday the Cuomo admin floated a bill that would ban many kinds of plastic shopping bags starting at the beginning of 2019. Bill language blurbage:

This prohibition does not apply to (i) a reusable bag that is not made of film plastic or a compostable bag; (ii) a plastic bag used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, fish, or poultry; (iii) a plastic bag used by a customer solely to package bulk items, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, or candy; (iv) a plastic bag used solely to contain food sliced to order; (v) a plastic bag used solely to contain a newspaper for delivery to a subscriber; (vi) plastic bags sold in bulk; (vii) a plastic bag prepackaged for sale to a customer including, but not limited to, a trash bag and a food storage bag; (viii) a plastic garment bag; (ix) a plastic bag provided by a restaurant, tavern or similar establishment to carry out or deliver food; or (x) any other bag exempted by the department in regulations.

The bill would also make the state the sole jurisdiction for regulating the use of plastic bags. There are currently a handful of municipalities around the state already with laws on the books. (And the state already requires larger retailer to collect plastic bags for recycling.)

New York State would not be the first state to do make this move. For example: California has a ban on single-use carryout bags. Other municipalities -- such as Chicago -- have taken on the problem of plastic bags by taxing them. Some -- again, like California -- also tax paper bags in an attempt to cut down on their use, because paper has environmental impacts of its own.

A state task force at looked this issue last year and runs through a bunch of different options for cutting down on plastic bag use, and the pros and cons for each approach. Among the cons for a plastic ban -- someone will end bearing an extra cost somewhere, because plastic bags cost roughly 1 cent and paper bags are 5-6 cents (or more). There's a relatively wide range for the cost of reusable bags, according to the report.

Plastic bags are terrible for the environment. They're made from fossil fuels, they can be hard to recycle, and they can cause a variety of problems ranging from litter, to wildlife harm, to microplastic pollution.

Of course, it's one thing for Andrew Cuomo to float this legislation -- it's another for it to make it through the state legislature (especially the state Senate) and become law.

But there could be motivation for the Cuomo admin get this bill through. It announced the bill Monday while Cynthia Nixon was literally front and center of the climate march in Albany -- a fact mentioned by pretty much every news outlet and advocate with a Twitter account. (And Cuomo signed legislation in 2017 that blocked New York City from instituting a tax on plastic bags.) [@NYNow] [NYT 2017]

The Cuomo admin pushed back on that idea that the announcement was a bid to blunt Nixon's primary push, instead arguing it was the result of deliberative process toward statewide policy making. [@RichAzzopardi]


Cuomo is running scared and shows that he has no backbone by his pandering to the utra-left wing fringe of his party. If Cuomo is going to act like and show he is afraid of the actress Nixon, then I might as well vote, as a protest for Nixon, then vote Republican in the election.
I, like my free plastic bags and so do others. This environmentalist nonsense is getting out of hand. The plastic ban exemption is so great that it will be ineffective. Ever carry out groceries in a paper ban when its raining? Why doesn't Cuomo stop using NYS helicopters and planes and trade his gas-guzzling SUV in for a Telsa? And strip all state officials of all their cars; let them take public transit, car pool or take Uber. It is starting to look like this old time Democrat, will be voting Republican all the way in November, if Cuomo keeps on moving towards the extreme left.

"Ever carry out groceries in a paper ban when its raining?"

Well, not in a long time, James, because I have some really sturdy reusable bags to use instead. This is not that hard to do. And it's facile to deflect the plastic bag problem by talking about Cuomo's helicopter. The plastic bag problem is not just that it is made out of a non-renewable resource, but that it doesn't degrade in the landfills and is a major source of litter around our neighborhoods and rivers. How is that "environmental nonsense"?

As a non-old time Democrat, I fully support this regardless of what party or politician is putting it forward.

They're as bad for the planet as they are for bagging groceries. It's unbelievable that there's a perceived left or right position on this. I understand that Republicans usually favor small gov't and less regulation, but how about favoring the Earth instead of laziness. The only problems with reusable bags is the initial cost. At first people may forget to bring them, I know I have, but before long this will be the norm and people will forget they ever used plastic.

@Jeff D -- the state and the big supermarkets could even give away some free reusable bags at the start of this for anyone who does find this cost prohibitive.

I would put a 5-cent charge into this for the use of paper bags, as I believe Assemblywoman Fahy has proposed. Going back to the days when everyone took home many paper bags is not progress.

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