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Suffolk County BYOBag law avoids 1 billion plastic bags with countywide law

SuffolkCountySingle-Use Bag Law Poster

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Take action today! Contact Governor Cuomo and your state representatives and tell them to ban the single-use plastic bag in the final budget agreement. The budget deadline is April 1!


Duck and single-use plastic bagSuffolk County just released a report with our partners Citizens Campaign for the Environment showing the effectiveness of their county-wide single-use bag law, implemented in 2017. Their law, placing a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic bags has avoided an astounding 1.1 billion single-use plastic bags and reduced single-use paper bags by 78.8 percent between 2017 and 2018.

The goals for any BYOBag policy is waste reduction, behavior change, and eliminating plastic bags from entering the environment. Suffolk’s law demonstrates the power of a fee on paper to positively change consumer behavior. Consider the county’s achievements:

  • Retailers report purchasing 81 percent fewer single-plastic bags and 79 percent fewer single-use paper bags since the law was implemented according to data from the Food Industry Alliance
  • 28 – 60 percent increase in reusable bag utilization from shoppers according to pre and post-implementation surveys
  • 41 percent decrease in bags found on Suffolk’s shorelines according to beach cleanup data from the American Littoral Society
  • Only 3 percent of retailers were found out of compliance according to enforcement data

Riverkeeper and its partners have long argued that a fee on other bags must accompany any New York State plastic bag ban. This is important, as DEC’s report from a state task force on single-use bags surveyed 13 communities in New York with plastic bag bans and found that paper bag use skyrocketed in those communities. While plastic bags are a menace to the environment, paper bags have hidden impacts including more intensive water-use, increased greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and taking up additional landfill space.

Suffolk County single-use bag law

Poster credit: Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Northeast Chapter of the American Littoral Society

Friday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said that achieving a plastic bag ban in the budget by April 1st is one of his top priorities and he was open to negotiating on a fee for paper. On the same day, Riverkeeper and our partners sent New York’s elected leaders a letter reiterating our support of a ban on plastic and a fee on all other carryout bags. His remarks are encouraging and Riverkeeper encourages him and the Assembly to look towards Suffolk County to understand how New York can build upon their success and go further.

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