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Advocates call on Governor Cuomo and legislators to pass the New York State BYOBag Act

2018-06-06

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Contacts:

Jeremy Cherson, Riverkeeper, 770-630-6790, jcherson@riverkeeper.org
Megan Ahearn, NYPIRG, (212) 349-6460 x1166, mahearn@nypirg.org
Roger Downs, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, (518) 426-9144, roger.downs@sierraclub.org
Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, (516) 390-7150, aesposito@citizenscampaign.orgPatrick McClellen, New York League of Conservation Voters, (203) 313-0528, pmcclellan@nylcv.org Jennifer Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes, ?(312) 445-9760, jcaddick@greatlakes.org

Advocates call on Governor Cuomo and legislators to pass the New York State BYOBag Act

Riverkeeper & allied groups deliver thousands of petition signatures to the Governor in support of statewide bill modeled on California law.

 

Albany, N.Y. – Environmental and community organizations today delivered more than 5,000 thousand petition signatures to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling on him to pass the New York State BYOBag Act.

Representatives of the organizations also met with Assembly members and Senators to urge them to pass S7760/A9953 to ban polluting single-use plastic bags and place a 10-cent fee on alternative bags. The fee will help fund state parks, environmental programs, and free reusable bags for low and fixed income New Yorkers.

Today’s efforts were part of a statewide Bring Your Own Bag Advocacy day and included representatives from Riverkeeper, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, New York League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, NYPIRG, Citizens Committee For New York City, the Alliance for the Great Lakes the Nature Conservancy in New York, 350Brooklyn, United for Action, and NYC Friends of Clearwater.

Plastic bag laws are helping to reduce pollution in waterways across the country and around the world, and it is time that New York State catches up.

The problem is all too obvious. Single use plastics are among the most common debris picked up by thousands of volunteers during the annual Riverkeeper Sweep shoreline cleanup and service event, which extends along the Hudson River at more than 100 locations from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks. Plastic bags and remnants of plastic bags are pervasive. During this year’s Riverkeeper Sweep on May 5, volunteers counted 52 at Corning Preserve cleanup in Albany, for example. At two dead-end streets in Brooklyn, at the shoreline of Newtown Creek, volunteers estimated the number at 750.

We know that bans on plastic bags with fees on alternative bags work. Los Angeles County implemented a plastic bag ban with a 10-cent fee on paper bags and experienced a 94 percent decline in plastic bag usage and a 30 percent reduction in paper bag usage. The United Kingdom’s plastic bag policies have led to an almost 30 percent reduction in plastic bag pollution on the North Sea floor. Evidence from both Chicago and Honolulu demonstrate that the fee on paper is critical to reduce waste and foster a culture of using reusable bags.

Governor Cuomo’s proposed ban falls short as an effective solution, lacking a fee on alternative bags. Legislation by Senator Liz Krueger, Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (S7760 / A9953) has the necessary elements to effectively reduce single-use plastic bag pollution.

Each year, nearly 23 billion single-use plastic bags are used across NYS – many of them end up on our streets and in our local waterways, carried by wind, storm sewers, and shoreline littering. Research by Riverkeeper and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found microplastic particles prevalent in waters across the New York metro area, and research from Columbia University found microplastic particles in digestive tracts of shrimp, oysters, clams, and other species, as many species mistake microplastics for food.

Each day the science on the harms of plastic pollution to the health of water and wildlife becomes clearer. Each year we clean up plastic pollution by the ton during our shoreline cleanups throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City..  Volunteers are doing their part – now it’s time for our elected leaders to do their part. Communities such as Ulster and Westchester counties are pushing forward with proposals for a ban on plastic bags and a fee on alternative bags. These are proven policies that reduce plastic pollution and foster a culture of using reusable bags. Riverkeeper is delighted that Governor Cuomo is committed to tackling the scourge of plastic pollution, but we encourage him to support an effective solution – the BYOBag Act,” said Jeremy Cherson, Advocacy Coordinator for Riverkeeper.

“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 the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “The report issued by the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force earlier this year articulated the urgent need to address this needless waste and that fee-based strategies work better to reduce plastic bag use than bans along because they change consumer behavior. The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter urges the Governor and the Legislature to support and pass the NYS BYOBag Act (S.7760/A.9953), a ban on single-use plastic bags accompanied with a fee on the alternative bag types.

Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “New Yorkers use billions of plastic bags every year and most of them end up discarded, on our streets, or in our local waterways.  After years of inaction, the time is now for our state to reduce plastic waste in our environment in order to fight climate change, improve public health, and bring benefits to our ecosystem. We join Riverkeeper, other environmental advocacy groups, and community members across our state to urge our representatives to enact S7760/A9953 this session.”

“Villages, towns, and counties across New York State are working to pass comprehensive Bring Your Own Bag laws, which reduce our dependence on single-use plastic bags and encourage the public to switch to reusable alternatives. In Suffolk County, the public has responded positively and 70% are bringing their own bag to grocery stores due to a new bill implemented in January. The time has passed for the wasteful, throw away culture of  single use plastic bags. We need our New York State leaders to finally tackle our growing plastic pollution problem by passing a statewide law that leads to widespread and long-lasting behavior change.” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“Plastic bags are an environmental and taxpayer disaster. An increasing number of communities in New York, the United States and across the planet are taking action to ban them. After blocking the NYC plastic bag law, the state legislature has a responsibility to pass legislation that helps solve this crisis. The legislation introduced by Senator Krueger based on the California plastic law should be passed before legislators adjourn for the year,” said Mark Dunlea, chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund.

Nate Drag, Water Project Manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes said, “Communities across New York State are impacted by plastic pollution. In the Great Lakes, over 80% of the litter our Adopt-a-Beach volunteers collect from shorelines is plastic. It is time for New York State to be a leader in protecting our ecosystems and communities from plastic pollution and take a common sense step forward with a strong statewide plastic bag reduction policy.”

Andre Mozeak, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Citizens Committee for New York City said, “Single use plastic bags are a problem that New York State can, and should, address.  We need to support a ban/fee hybrid bill like S7760/A995.  This bill bans single use plastic bags, and places a small fee on bags made from paper or other materials.  Experience in other  locations has shown that such a bill is much more effective at reducing waste than just a simple ban on single use bags.  The time has come to Bring Our Own Bags!”

Senator Liz Krueger, lead sponsor of NYS BYOBag Act said, “We are just stewards, who have responsibility to protect our planet, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. That means ensuring that our trees and sidewalks are not strewn with plastic bags, that our rivers and streams are not degraded by plastic pollution and that the food we eat is not poisoned by the residue of our own plastic waste.  We can and must do our part by ending the use of plastic carryout bags.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said,“New Yorkers use nearly 23 billion plastic carryout bags each year, the majority of which are sent to landfills, as the rest collect in streets, sewers and waterways. As we’ve seen in countless municipalities across the state of New York: plastic bag laws work. The legislation I sponsor with Senator Liz Krueger imposes a ban on single-use plastic bags and a fee on other types of bags to ensure we leave New York’s environment in better shape than we inherited it. Thank you to Riverkeeper and the advocates here today for their efforts to address this critical public health threat.”

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