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Prevent Disposable Bag Pollution in New York City

To be delivered to: Mayor DeBlasio, NYC Council
Plastic bag in water. Click Image for Gallery
Disposable plastic and paper bags are environmentally harmful and completely unnecessary. Placing a 10-cent fee on disposable bags would reduce litter in our parks, open spaces, highways, and shorelines; save valuable natural resources; protect wildlife and local waterways; and promote the cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative, reusable bags.

Background

Over the last few decades, the issue of disposable bag pollution has become a global concern. Plastic and paper bags have become ubiquitous and are taking a toll on our environment and  economy. According to the EPA, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, and each of those bags is used for an average of 12 minutes. These bags, which never fully break down, end up in our landfills, parks, beaches, roadways, parking lots, and waterways. Disposable bags are harmful, wasteful, costly, and unnecessary. Problems with disposable bags:
  • Both plastic and paper bags require vast amounts of our natural resources to manufacture and transport. Paper bags use approximately 14 million trees every year. To produce the 100 billion plastic bags that are thrown away in U.S. every year, 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuel and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water are required, while a billion pounds of solid waste and 2.7 million tons of CO2 are generated.
  • Disposable bags often end up as unsightly litter in our communities, and when it rains this litter is swept into storm drains blocking them and causing infrastructure damage and localized flooding.
  • Plastic bags never fully break down; they photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces. Fish and wildlife consume plastic pieces, mistaking them for food, or become ensnared in plastic debris.
  • U.S. retailers spend approximately $4 billion annually to purchase disposable bags, which is being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Municipalities are also spending millions of dollars to dispose of plastic bags.
Governments around the globe have begun passing legislation to place a fee on disposable bags. In places such as Ireland, Washington, D.C., and China, disposable bag fees have proven effective in slashing disposable use while incentivizing the cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative, reusable bags. By placing a 10-cent fee on disposable bags, New York City can be a world leader in the movement to reduce disposable bag pollution.

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