Retail Groups Seek Court Injunction On Plastic Bag Ban
New York’s plastic bag ban began Sunday but state regulators are offering a grace period of at least a month to enforce it on store owners.
State officials are offering stores time to transition from plastic bag use as part of the state law that was adopted last year.
On Friday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to wait until at least April 1 to impose any fines on stores that do not comply as part of a ongoing court fight brought by plastic-bag companies and a bodega organization.
“Consistent with what I have been saying for a couple of months — during the initial period of the law, we will be focusing on education, not enforcement,” DEC commissioner Basil Seggos wrote Friday on Twitter.
The state has indicated that is not looking to immediately punish stores with fines if they happen to give out a single-use plastic bag. Instead, the state has launched a public campaign to make New Yorkers aware of the law.
“We have consistently said since the beginning of our outreach campaign that we will focus on education rather than enforcement and today does not change that,” the DEC said in a statement.
Owners could eventually face fines of $250 for a first violation and $500 for a second one.
Plastic bags will be banned in grocery, retail and convenience stores across New York except for a few instances, such as smaller plastic bags for carrying bulk items like produce, nuts or deli meat.
Grocery stores are encouraging the use of reusable bags, or they will provide paper bags. Some supermarkets, including Wegmans and Price Chopper, will charge 5 cents per bag, while some counties are charging their own 5 cents, including Tompkins and Suffolk counties and New York City. Not Rockland County.
The law is aimed at improving the environment but plastic bag companies and smaller shops have been fighting it, saying the law is flawed.
A judge will hear the groups’ case for a temporary injunction on March 24 while the DEC agreed in court papers Friday to not enforce the ban until April 1.
“Today’s court hearing delivered a big win for New York retailers and shoppers, hitting the pause button on the pending bag ban that has caused unnecessary confusion and stress statewide,” Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, said in a statement.
There are also exemptions for bags sold in bulk, such as trash bags, as well as garment bags and those given for carryout orders at restaurants.