News > News > Comprehensive plastic-bag ban with fee on paper needed in the final budget, advocates and legislators say 

Comprehensive plastic-bag ban with fee on paper needed in the final budget, advocates and legislators say 

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2019

Albany, NY– New York State lawmakers were joined by environmental advocates in calling for a comprehensive single-use bag policy — including a ban on plastic with a fee on all other carryout bags — in a final budget agreement. New Yorkers use about 23 billion plastic bags every year. This policy is already in place and successful in many jurisdictions across the country, including California.

Plastic bag bans without a corresponding fee on paper bags, while admirable in intent, rarely reduce bag waste. According to the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report, a Department of Environmental Conservation survey of 13 communities with plastic bag laws in New York found that those policies that did not include a fee on paper bags saw an increase in their use. Retailers in many jurisdictions that have taken a ban-only approach, switch to thicker plastic bags that could legally be considered “reusable” but are in fact single-use. Switching from plastic to paper also creates different environmental issues. Compared to plastic, paper bags are more carbon-intensive to produce and much heavier, therefore requiring more truck trips to deliver the same number of bags to stores. Paper bags are also water-intensive to manufacture and they create a greater volume of solid waste.

Suffolk County just released a report showing the effectiveness of their county-wide single-use bag law, implemented in 2017, with more than 1 billion single-use plastic bags avoided and about an 80 percent reduction in single-use plastic bag use. Advocates and legislators are calling on state leaders to go beyond the Suffolk models by adopting “hybrid” legislation, banning plastic and placing a fee on other carryout bags such as paper.

Senator Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee said, “The scourge of plastic and paper bags urgently needs to be addressed, and future generations are counting on us to do the right thing, right now.”

Assemblymember Steve Englebright, chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee said, “Plastic bags impose a very high cost on the environment. The bags pollute and litter our landscapes, waterways, and oceans. According to the World Economic Forum, “without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050.” Plastic bags are mistaken for food by whales and turtles, and even when plastic breaks down into smaller pieces it is ingested by marine life. These tiny bits of plastic act like sponges attracting pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals.  Toxic microplastics have even been found in the seafood we eat.  Banning plastic bags is an important step in the reducing this pollution.”

Senator Jen Metzger said, “Plastic waste is polluting our oceans, rivers and streams, and causing great harm to wildlife. A comprehensive program that bans single-use plastic and incentivizes reusable bags by charging a small fee for paper bags is an important tool for reducing our environmental impact and moving away from fossil-fuels and to a clean energy economy.”

Senator Pete Harckham said, “Plastic bags impose a very high cost on the environment. The bags pollute and litter our landscapes, waterways, and oceans. According to the World Economic Forum, “without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050.”  Plastic bags are mistaken for food by whales and turtles, and even when plastic breaks down into smaller pieces it is ingested by marine life. These tiny bits of plastic act like sponges attracting pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Toxic microplastics have even been found in the seafood we eat.  Banning plastic bags is an important step in the reducing this pollution.”

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “New York State uses 23 billion plastic bags each year – they end up strewn in our yards, streets, and waterways. Suffolk County used 1.1 billion fewer bags since implementing its own plastic bag ban and fee on paper in 2017, and has seen an 80% reduction in the use of plastic bags across the board! Moreover, customers and grocers need the consistency and predictability of a uniform statewide policy, as more local governments pass different bans and fees. For New York to lead the fight against climate change, we are overdue for a ban on plastic bags and a fee on paper.”

“For too long our waterways, beaches and roadsides have been polluted by single-use plastic bags,” saidAssemblymember Sean Ryan. “This ban will help us to protect our environment, and encourage consumers to bring reusable bags with them, which will drastically reduce the amount of litter in our environment. I’m committed to helping this proposal be included in the upcoming budget, and I look forward to New York State taking another step in our efforts to preserve our environment for generations to come.”

“Much like our bodies, the health of our planet starts with what we put in it. New Yorkers use and throw away an ungodly 23 billion plastic bags each year, and there is simply no good reason for that,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. “Shoppers can always get another grocery bag, but we only get one planet. Passage of the plastic bag ban in this year’s budget, coupled with a fee on paper bags, is imperative.”

Jeremy Cherson, Legislative Advocacy Manager for Riverkeeper said, “The time has come to act. Discussions on how to address single-use bags have raged for years, but advocates have always known that California’s model, a ban on plastic bags with a fee on all other carryout bags, is the gold standard policy. New Yorkers use nearly 23 billion single-use plastic bags annually and that is 23 billion too many for our environment. Riverkeeper urges New York’s leaders to include legislation that will ban the plastic bag and place a fee on all other carryout bags, in the final budget.”

“Plastic bags pollute our waters and damage our infrastructure. The recent report detailing the success of the Suffolk County program shows that a comprehensive approach is the most effective way to reduce waste and conserve natural resources. We urge Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to include statewide policy to address pollution from single-use bags with a comprehensive program that includes a ban on plastic coupled with a fee on other single-use bags in the State Budget,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar, New York policy director for The Nature Conservancy.

Erin McGrath, Policy Manager for Audubon New York said, “Single-use plastics are polluting our oceans and posing a major threat to our coastal and marine birds. Plastic bags break down into microplastics, and scientists estimate that 99 percent of all pelagic birds will ingest plastic at some point in their lives by the year 2050. Banning plastic bags in New York State will help to curb plastic pollution and decrease impacts to birds and the places they need.”

“The only way to aggressively spark a shift toward reusable shopping bags is to address both plastic and paper,” said Rich Schrader, New York Political Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Governor Cuomo’s proposal is encouraging, but a fee on paper bags is essential to fully address the massive waste and pollution problems caused by single-use bags.”

“Few things in this world are more ubiquitous than the single use plastic bag. We see them everywhere—littered on our streets, hanging from trees, floating in our waterways. It is long past time for a statewide ban to reduce this plastic waste scourge. A comprehensive bag ban—that includes a fee on paper bag— will help protect wildlife, our land and water, reduce litter and recycling processing costs, and lessen our reliance on fossil fuels. It must be part of this year’s budget,” said Kate Kurea, Deputy Director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

“Single-use plastic bags are an environmental menace – littering our parks, despoiling our communities and clogging our waterways; all with the potential to strangle and poison wildlife,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “The Senate, Assembly and Governor have an obligation to address the scourge of the 23 billion plastic bags discarded in New York annually by banning single-use plastic bags in the 2019-20 budget accompanied by a fee on alternative bag types.”

Patrick McClellan, State Policy Director of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “It is past time for New York State to address single-use bag waste. Plastic bags pollute our waterways and streets, clog our waste systems, and are with us forever. Paper bags also contribute to climate change and need to be addressed. We have seen peer states including California reduce bag waste and it’s time for New York to keep up. A ban on plastic bags combined with a fee on other single-use bags would reduce waste, keep our waterways clear, and contribute to the fight against climate change. We are proud to join our partners in the environmental movement and in the State Legislature in calling for this common-sense measure to be included in the budget.”

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG said, “It’s horrifying to see images of animal corpses with plastic filling their bellies, and equally as horrifying is the fact that microplastics are now found in humans. Eight million tons of plastic ends up in oceans every year, and this will only continue unless states take action. New York must do its part to protect public health and the environment by banning plastic bags, along with a fee on paper bags, this budget season.”


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