Just a few days after gaining Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support, a five-cent fee on single-use plastic bags was approved yesterday by the NYC City Council. The law will require business owners to charge a fee for each plastic bag they give their customers in an attempt to cut down on the city’s enormous amounts of plastic waste. The bill, first introduced in 2013, has been controversial as some claim it is unfair, but city leaders have dismissed those concerns in favor of the environmental benefits.
On Thursday, the City Council voted 28-20 to approve the measure, which allows owners of grocery stores and take-out restaurants to charge as much as five cents per disposable bag. Last year, New Yorkers used some 9 billion single-use plastic bags, most of which were not recycled. The bill is intended to motivate residents to bring reusable bags and cut down on the city’s excessive plastic waste. To that end, stores will also be allowed to give away free reusable bags for two weeks each April, which is Earth Month.
In a statement, de Blasio touted the bill’s passing as a major step forward in the city’s sustainability plan. “In OneNYC, my Administration committed to sending Zero Waste to landfills by 2030 – a bold, necessary and achievable goal in pursuit of a more sustainable New York City,” he said. “Achieving Zero Waste includes significantly reducing the use of plastic bags, which have long clogged our water system, gotten stuck in our trees and littered our city.”
Critics of the proposed law argue that a “plastic bag tax” is unfair for the city’s poorest residents, who are less likely to carry reusable bags and more apt to feel a financial strain from the added fee. For city leaders, the benefits outweigh the costs. “The Department of Sanitation projects that this five cent fee could reduce plastic and paper bag waste by approximately 60 percent, based on the experiences of other cities,” de Blasio said.
The bag fee will become effective October 1, 2016.