NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — The environmental group Riverkeeper says the state’s newly adopted ban on single-use plastic retail bags is a major achievement.
“Getting the plastic bag ban is absolutely huge,” Jeremy Cherson, the group’s legislative advocacy manager, said at a press conference Thursday in New Paltz.
The ban, which takes effect in March 2020, is aimed at getting shoppers to bring reusable bags to stores and includes a 5-cent fee for the purchase of paper bags at checkout. Ulster County has enacted an almost-identical ban which is to take effect this summer.
“Two years ago, the state Legislature overturned New York City’s 5-cent fee on paper bags and plastic bags,” Cherson said. “Now, with this budget, advocates, the governor and the Legislature have righted a wrong and banned the plastic bags across the entire state.”
Revenue from the new 5-cent fee for paper bags is to be used to buy reusable bags for low- and fixed-income residents and to support the Environmental Protection Fund.
Cherson said Riverkeeper believes the 5-cent actually will reduce the use of paper bags.
“In Suffolk County, where they had a 5-cent fee on paper bags, they reduced the usage of the paper bag by 80 percent,” he said. “With their 5-cent fee on plastic … they reduced a billion bags in one year.”
State Sen. Jennifer Metzger agreed the fees will help foster the use of reusable bags.
“That fee is very important to incentivizing people to bring reusable bags,” Metzger, D-Rosendale, said at the press conference. “Studies have shown the fee is actually necessary to achieve the full environmental benefits.”
Cherson said it has become impossible to keep plastic bags from littering the landscape.
“You see them everywhere,” he said. “You see them on the medians of highways, you see them up in trees. They are a blight that clogs sewage infrastructure, they clog recycling materials, costing local governments and taxpayers money.”
Cherson said the ban is expected to be the first step in eliminating the harmful impacts of discarded plastic products.
“This law is going to make an enormous impact on New York’s environment, and we’re just getting started on … single-use plastic items,” Cherson said.