NEW YORK – Months after the mayor proposed a ban on foam takeout containers, City Council members have found a new target to make the city greener: the plastic bag.
City Council members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin announced Tuesday what they called a common-sense bill to cut the use of single-use plastic shopping bags. Under the proposal, all grocery stores and retailers would be compelled to charge customers 10 cents for every bag used. The measure would encourage people to start reusing the bags they already have at home, the bill’s sponsors and environmental advocates said.
Lander said that similar laws in other cities across the nation had cut plastic bag use 60 to 90 percent. “We’ve been able to spend six months talking to retailers and small businesses in a productive dialogue, doing research, to figure out the best way to do this,” said Lander. “There’s something to be said for being first. But we’ve been able to look at other cities to see what the best practices are.”
Advocates say New Yorkers throw out 5.2 billion bags a year and spend $10 million on transporting bags to landfills. Lander, Chin and a coalition of around 20 environmental groups want New York to join West Coast cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles in cracking down on plastic bag waste.
But not all New Yorkers are keen on the idea, pointing to the trade-off in cost and convenience. “People have to get their groceries home somehow,” said Ken Warner, 48, of Brooklyn. “It might only be 10 cents, but for some people every 10 cents counts.”
The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which promotes the plastic bag industry, said in a statement that paper and cotton bags require more energy to produce than plastic bags and that “on a per bag basis, plastic bags are more resource-efficient, reduce landfill waste and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than alternatives.”