Plastic Bags Get Bagged Under Cuomo’s Proposal

ALBANY – If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has his way single-use plastic bags will become a thing of the past.

Monday Cuomo introduced a program bill that would ban all single-use, plastic carry out bags. This action follows the release of the New York State Plastic Bags Task Force report in January, which outlined the environmental impact of plastic bags, single-use bag reduction measures, and actions the state could take to try to reduce pollution.

“The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment,” Cuomo said. “As the old proverb goes: ‘We did not inherit the earth, we are merely borrowing it from our children,’ and with this action we are helping to leave a stronger, cleaner and greener New York for all.”

New York is taking action to implement legislation that will ban plastic bags statewide. The Governor launched the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force in March 2017 to conduct a study and develop a comprehensive plan. The Task Force is led by State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos along with co-chairs Senator Thomas O’Mara and Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

The Task Force conducted a survey of more than a dozen municipalities in New York State that currently have plastic bag laws. The Task Force also encouraged public comment on the issue and received 558 responses between March and December 2017. The full report is available here.

Based on recommendations included in the report, the Governor is introducing a program bill that would ban the provision of single-use, plastic carry out bags at any point of sale, and would provide the Department of Environmental Conservation with exclusive jurisdiction over plastic bags and film plastic recycling. The bill exempts garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods, such as fruits and sliced meats. The bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Currently, 10 cities, towns, and villages in New York enacted plastic bag bans. One municipality has a plastic bag ban with a fee on single-use paper bags and bags that qualify as reusable, including 2.25 mil flexible plastic bags. The City of Long Beach has a single-use plastic bag fee in place and Suffolk County has a single-use plastic bag fee. In New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, which contributes to pollution both on and off land. These bags do not biodegrade and they persist for years.