Joining a long line of cities that have introduced measures to restrict single-use plastic bags, the New York City Council recently proposed a bill that would impose a 10-cent fee on all plastic and paper grocery bags. New York would join Los Angeles, which in January instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags, as the United States’ two largest cities to enact such legislation.
“The bags get stuck in storm drains, they cause flooding and they litter our beaches,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin of Manhattan, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation. “And they cost New York City a lot of money.”
In proposing the legislation, the New York City Council said that New York residents go through 5.2 billion disposable plastic bags annually and it costs the city $10 million to haul used bags to landfills. The legislators said that the 10-cent fee would be designed to encourage consumers to bring reusable bags with them to stores. If passed, the bag fee would apply to supermarkets, retail stores, department stores and even street vendors selling fruit and general merchandise. Bags from restaurants would be exempt, as would bags for medication at pharmacies.
The bill needs the support of 26 council members to pass, a number that the Council expects it already has the backing of. It would then go to the mayor’s desk for his approval. Mayor Bill de Blasio has not said if he will sign off on the measure, but he said he is concerned about the amount of disposable bags in circulation.
“Plastic bags are a problem,” de Blasio said. “Our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags. There are a lot of different ways to do that.”