Starting March 1, the Bag Waste Reduction Law will take effect, banning all plastic carryout bags (other than an exempt bag) from distribution by anyone required to collect New York State sales tax.
The New York State Department of Environmental Protection (NYS DEC) passed the legislation in order to be more eco-friendly. Plastic bag usage affects both our communities and the environment.
Plastic bags can be seen stuck in trees, as litter in our neighborhoods and floating in our waterways. The negative impacts of plastic bags are easily seen, from the significant recycling and disposal issues they pose to the harm they can do to wildlife.
Under the Bag Waste Reduction Law, cities and counties are authorized to adopt a five cent paper carryout bag reduction fee. This means that in these areas, a consumer will be charged five cents for each paper carryout bag provided at checkout. In areas that have adopted the five cent paper carryout bag reduction fee, the fee does not apply to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children: a nutrition program) recipients, who are exempt from paying a paper carryout bag reduction fee for paper carryout bags.
Stores covered under the New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act will still be required to collect plastic bags and other film plastics from consumers for recycling. Film plastics include items such as bread bags and plastic wraps that come over cases of water, paper towels and other similar items.
Some bags are exempt under the law. Plastic bags may be distributed to consumers in a few specific circumstances, such as a bag used by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs and produce bags for bulk items such as fruits and vegetables.
The Bag Waste Reduction Law has been met with mixed reviews from employees in Orange County.
“I don’t have a problem with it…,” said June Bowman, manager of Stewart’s Shops in Walden. “It’s more eco-friendly.”
Randi Greene, owner of Eat This Bakery & Gifts in Montgomery had a very different response to the Bag Waste Reduction Law.
“I do support a more sustainable environment but at the same time, it’s hard for me as a small business owner,” she said. “The paper bags are more expensive and the canvas bags are really expensive.”
The NYS DEC is encouraging consumers to bring reusable bags with them when they shop. While shoppers can bring any type of bag, including film plastic, there are many alternatives to choose from which are more environmentally friendly. Ideally, a bag should be washable and used for multiple uses, such as one made from cloth.
Many retailers will have reusable bags for sale, in case a customer forgets to bring a bag with them. An alternative, such as paper, may also be available. Stores are not required to have bags available for customers. Some stores may choose not to switch to paper and may only have reusable bags for purchase. The NYS DEC implores consumers to keep reusable bags in their cars, or clip folding reusable bags onto their commuting bag or purse so that they always have them handy.
“Remember that every time you use a reusable bag, you are doing your part to prevent litter and waste,” the Bag Waste Reduction Law states.