The Slatest

New York Set to Become Second State to Ban Plastic Bags

A person carries a plastic bag during the lunch hour in Lower Manhattan, January 15, 2019 in New York City.
Banned! Almost.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York state lawmakers have reportedly come to an agreement, in principle, on a statewide ban on the use of single-use plastic bags in retail sales, such as grocery stores and bodegas. The plan would not only forbid retail stores from providing customers with a plastic bag, it would also could impose a 5 cent fee on providing paper bags. The plastic ban, which includes some caveats, is part of the New York state budget bill that is expected to be passed in the coming days. Environmental groups estimate New Yorkers burn through some 23 billion plastic bags every year.

When the ban passes, New York will become the second state in the U.S. to outlaw single-use plastic bags, following California, which enacted its own ban in 2016. Hawaii also has a de facto statewide prohibition because every county in the state bars the use of plastic bags. There are expected to be a number of exemptions to the bag ban, the New York Times reports, “including food takeout bags used by restaurants, bags used to wrap deli or meat counter products and bags for bulk items. Newspaper bags would also be exempted as would garment bags.”

The ban on single-use plastic is the result of a growing awareness of the destruction non-biodegradable plastic does to the environment, particularly the ocean. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing a ban since last year and the issue has gained momentum of late, prompting local governments to take action on their own to reduce extraneous plastic usage in the form of bags and straws. Business groups were, out of sheer habit, not impressed by New York’s efforts at effective collective action on the issue. “What is reportedly being agreed to today… will impose significant new and unplanned costs on retail food stores,” Mike Durant, the head of the state Food Industry Alliance, said in a statement Thursday. “A plastic-bag ban with a fee on single-use paper bags is not a sustainable public policy solution.” Not a sustainable public policy solution? It seems like the literal definition of a sustainable public policy solution. Did this guy from Big Takeout even listen to the question?

For every New York (or California or Hawaii for that matter) there is, of course, a Florida. Earlier this month, good old Florida, reliably pushed back against a trend in local communities to ban the use of plastic straws. One state’s “sustainable public policy solution” is Florida’s “government overreach” and state lawmakers are now considering a bill that would ban straw bans. Ban the bans!