County Must Decide On 5-cent Tax On Paper Bags
New York is set to become the second state to ban single-use plastic bags, after the New York State Legislature on Sunday signed off on a $175 billion budget that included the measure.
The ban, set to take effect on March 1, 2020, will include exemptions for uncooked meat, fish or poultry, prescription drugs, trash bags and restaurant carryout orders.
Counties will be allowed to charge a five-cent tax for paper bags, three cents of which will go to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and two cents to local governments. In 2014, California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags.
Depending on the language of the bill, the state ban likely preempts Rockland County’s decision on whether or not to pass a law banning plastic bags.
The proposed county bill to ban plastic bags, which was awaiting Ed Day’s signature, did not include the five-cent tax.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who proposed the inclusion of the ban in his executive budget, said it was a way to help the environment.
“For far too long plastic bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways, and that’s why I proposed a ban in this year’s budget,” he said in a statement.
“With this smart, multi-pronged action, New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.
The ban doesn’t impose a fee on paper bags, but allows counties and cities to tack on a fee of 5 cents for paper bags, the Albany Times Union said.
The environmental group Riverkeeper said the deal to ban single-sue plastic bags signaled a big victory in the fight against plastic pollution and came on the heels of years of disagreement over the issue.
However, the organization was less than happy about the optional paper bag fee.
“We are thrilled that the days of the single-use plastic bags are coming to an end,” said Jeremy Cherson, legislative advocacy manager for Riverkeeper.
“This is a huge win for clean water, as every day the plastic pollution problem worsens,” he said. “While we advocated hard for a statewide consistent fee on paper bags, if this agreement becomes law, we encourage local government to opt-in to the critical fee on paper to help ensure communities have policies on the books that will encourage consumers to use reusable shopping bags.”
There are already villages, towns and counties in the state that have instituted some form of restriction on the use of plastic bags.
The Village of Larchmont has had a ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags since 2013. The Town of New Castle’s reusable bag law went into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Suffolk County saw a law go into effect Jan. 1, 2018, requiring retailers to charge at least 5 cents for either plastic or paper carryout bags.
One year later, the county said that there’s been a drastic reduction in the use of plastic bags.
The findings indicated that the county reduced its use of plastic bags by 1.1 billion bags over the course of a year.
Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said it was an exciting turnaround.
“Our economy depends on how well we care for our environment, and this is great news on that score,” she said.