News > News > Preserve River Ecology > More than 100 organizations urge Governor Cuomo to support a ban on plastic bags with a fee on alternative bags

More than 100 organizations urge Governor Cuomo to support a ban on plastic bags with a fee on alternative bags

Advocates appreciate Governor Cuomo’s attention to the issue but say that a ban/fee policy is more effective than the Governor’s ban only legislation

Ossining, N.Y. — Today, more than 100 organizations from across New York State sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to support a ban on single-use plastic bags and a fee on alternative bags. The groups highlight that this “hybrid” legislation is the most effective policy to reduce single-use plastic bag pollution.

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The groups were heartened to see the Governor assert his commitment to take a leadership role over this issue by introducing bag ban legislation. However, the Governor’s legislation cannot be supported by the groups as it is written. Given their experience with Bring Your Own Bag policies, a plastic bag ban only will have unintended adverse consequences and therefore, needs to be accompanied by a fee on other disposable bags. The organizations also urge that any new law retain effective local laws.

Considering lessons learned from residents, businesses, and municipalities around the state and country who have enacted Bring Your Own Bag policies, the groups wrote to urge the Governor to advance a policy that bans single-use plastic bags and places a fee on all other bags (both paper and reusable bags). An effective state policy should be modeled after municipalities that have successfully addressed this issue. A ban/fee hybrid is the most successful model of BYOBag policy in the United States. Los Angeles County achieved a 94 percent reduction in single-use bags, including a 30 percent reduction in paper bag use, after implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags with a 10-cent fee on other bags, including paper. San Jose has similar legislation to Los Angeles and documented an 89 percent decrease of bags in storm drains, 60 percent fewer in creeks, and 59 percent fewer in streets. Based on these successful policies, the Town of New Castle became the first municipality in NY to enact a ban/fee hybrid, with a ban on single-use plastic bags and a 10-cent fee on paper which went into effect in January of this year.

In contrast to these successful ordinances, Chicago banned plastic bags and did not place a fee on paper. Consequently, many stores switched to thicker plastic bags and labeled them as “reusable” resulting in an increase of waste and undermining efforts to curb single-use bag consumption. In 2016, Chicago switched from a ban to a 7-cent fee on disposable bags. In New York, the City of Long Beach and Suffolk County placed a fee on all bags instead of implementing a plastic bag ban and both are experiencing a dramatic reduction in disposable bag use. Meanwhile, municipalities in Westchester and Long Island chose to ban plastic bags with no fee component on other disposable bags and these communities have failed to see lasting consumer behavior change.

It is critical that New York moves forward with a policy that addresses both plastic and other disposable bags using the most successful policies as models. The organizations urge the Governor to ban single-use plastic bags and place a fee on paper and reusable bags and they recommend that a portion of the fee collected is dedicated to state parks, environmental improvement projects and reducing potential impacts to low/moderate income communities.

“Communities such as Ulster, Nassau and Westchester counties are pushing forward with proposals for either a fee on all single-use bags or a ban on plastic and a fee on paper. 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 champion policies similar to the policies local communities are considering, with a proven track record of success,” said Jeremy Cherson, Advocacy Coordinator for Riverkeeper.

“It is critical for New York State to be a leader in the movement to reduce plastics in our oceans, and we are glad to have the leadership of Governor Cuomo in this fight. We must ensure that we pass a Bring Your Own Bag (BYOBag) law that will encourage residents to make the switch to reusable bags and reduce waste in the long term. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and our NYS leaders to pass an effective, comprehensive BYOBag law,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

“We are encouraged that Governor Cuomo has introduced legislation to address bag waste. However, we continue to support either a fee on all single-use bags, which has been effective in many jurisdictions including Suffolk County, or a ban on plastic bags with a fee on all other single-use bags. The evidence in favor of these approaches is overwhelming,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

“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 alone because they change consumer behavior. The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter is grateful that the Governor continues to advance the issue and urges him to support a ban on single-use plastic bags accompanied with a fee on the alternative bag types.”

“New York is choking on plastic bag waste—banning these plastic bags is a necessary part of the solution. Also essential is setting a fee for other disposable bags with the revenue dedicated to environmental priorities like supporting our state and local parks,” said Peter M. Iwanowicz, Executive Director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

“The good news is that the Governor has a proposal which helps advance the legislative debate over eliminating plastic bags. The bad news is that the Governor’s proposal is too limited and it rolls back stronger local laws,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG’s Executive Director. “New York lawmakers should act this session to pass a plastic bag law based on best practices, which includes a fee for other bags, to adequately address the burden of plastic bags.”

“Governor Cuomo has advanced the discussion about how best to cut back on the ever-growing litter and pollution problems posed by single use plastic bags in New York State. But from Glasgow to Chicago and Paris to Washington DC, experience has demonstrated that a small fee on all bags (or a ban on plastic and fee on paper) is by far and away the most effective way to tackle the problem and spur the use of reusables. Any forthcoming legislation must also respect local statutes, like those in Suffolk County, that are already addressing this issue through the use of bag fees,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Every year, our Adopt-a-Beach volunteers confront the plastic pollution problem in the Great Lakes head-on. More than 80% of the litter they clean up is plastic. Disposable plastic bags are one type of plastic pollution with readily available alternatives. A strong statewide plastic bag reduction policy is a common sense step forward to reduce plastic pollution in the Great Lakes” said Nate Drag, Water Project Manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

“Governor Cuomo’s bag ban bill would preempt all local bag fee laws, which follows a dangerous national trend: state laws preempting effective local legislation,” said Jennie Romer, Founder of “A plastic bag ban with no fee component is an outdated policy. Cities all over the U.S. have acted as legislative laboratories for bag laws for the last ten years and given us a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. Grassroots advocates have worked hard to understand the nuances of bag policies and we ask our legislators to be mindful of these nuances as well.”

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