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Cuomo to Propose Ban on Plastic Bags

Non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags are a threat to wildlife and the environment. (RitaE/pixabay)
Non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags are a threat to wildlife and the environment. (RitaE/pixabay)
January 15, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's executive budget includes measures to combat litter, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and protect the environment.

On Sunday, the governor's office announced that his 2019 Executive Budget will include a proposal to ban all single-use plastic bags. According to Jessica Ottney Mahar, policy director with The Nature Conservancy in New York, environmentalists are excited about the governor's commitment to the environment, but the devil's in the details.

"We're looking forward to seeing the language behind that legislation,” Mahar said. “The question remains about what people will be using instead of those plastic bags."

Business groups say they oppose the ban because consumers will simply switch to paper bags, which cost more to transport and store and still could end up in the waste stream.

Mahar said some areas of New York already are discouraging plastic bags by charging consumers a small fee for each bag. She said imposing a ban is a good first step.

"Now what we need to do is follow it up with that fee on any single-use bag that is used as a substitute, and that will really incentivize people to start using reusable bags,” she said.

Last year, Suffolk County imposed a 5-cent fee on both plastic and paper single-use bags.

Some advocates are concerned that adding a fee for bags would have the greatest impact on those who can least afford any additional cost. Mahar noted that the governor is aware of those concerns.

"He's directing the Department of Environmental Conservation to work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure that the rollout of this initiative does not disproportionately impact low- and moderate-income communities,” she said.

Cuomo introduced plastic-bag-ban legislation in 2018, but it failed to clear the state Senate. With Democrats in control of the Senate this year, the chances of a bill passing have improved.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY