The state legislature is poised include a ban on plastic bags in the new budget, which will make New York the second state in the union to implement an outright ban on single-use plastic bags. The ban is expected to go into effect in March 2020.
Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the plastic bag ban in January, saying at the time, "While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation's strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations. These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water and create a cleaner and greener New York for all."
In 2017, Cuomo and the State Senate intervened to stop a plastic bag fee in NYC, which had been approved by the City Council.
Some critics don't think the current plastic bag ban goes far enough, because it doesn't charge a fee on paper bags—cities and counties will just have the option to charge 5 cents for paper bags. NYPIRG environmental policy director Liz Moran told the Times Union, “New York decided to trade one environmental issue for another by opting to ban plastic bags without including a fee on paper bags."
She added, "The State should have learned from other areas that also only banned plastic bags without a paper bag fee—they just don’t work. California has documented success with a ban coupled with a fee, and New York missed the mark. Now, water resources and climate in New York will pay the price."
The NY Times reports there are "a number of carveouts, including food takeout bags used by restaurants, bags used to wrap deli or meat counter products and bags for bulk items. Newspaper bags would also be exempted, as would garment bags and bags sold in bulk, such as trash or recycling bags."
In January, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Riverkeeper were glad Cuomo was taking this step—but with a caveat, "This is the beginning of the end for the scourge of plastic bag pollution in New York. However, experience shows that a fee on paper bags must accompany the proposed ban on plastic bags, to avoid a serious increase in paper waste and pollution."
Eric Goldstein, NYC Environment Director for the NRDC, told us last year, "It's a flawed solution. Experience elsewhere has shown that a simple ban on plastic bags leads to much greater use of paper bags—or thicker plastic bags—and doesn’t accomplish the primary objective of triggering a shift to reusables."
After California passed its plastic bag ban-and-paper bag fee, an LA Times editorial confirmed, "the world didn't end." Chicago has charged a fee for using either plastic or paper bags, and usage of both apparently was reduced by 42%.
But last week, Cuomo signaled his intention to move forward with the no-fee bag ban no matter what, saying, “I don’t want to lose the plastic bag ban for disagreement over the paper fee."
The state budget is due April 1st.