Despite the efforts of city leaders to push NYC in a greener direction, the state Senate has other ideas. Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who caucuses with Republicans, recently introduced a new bill that would essentially reverse NYC’s ‘plastic bag fee’, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law last month. Felder’s bill, which prohibits “any tax, fee or local charge” on carryout bags of any kind throughout the state, was approved 36-22 this week. If it passes the Assembly and is signed into law, it would be the final nail in the coffin of the plastic bag fee initiative.
Many have expressed their disappointment in the Senate’s support of the fee ban. Given that New Yorkers currently use some 9 billion single-use plastic bags, and that most of them are not recycled, a plastic bag fee was thought to be a significant step toward reducing needless waste. “It’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that the state Senate would vote to mandate that New York City waste billions of plastic bags each year,” said City Councilman Brad Lander in a statement. “Did they add $12.5 million to the city’s budget for the 91,000 tons of solid waste their bill would force us to send to landfills?”
The plastic bag fee was approved in early May and swiftly signed into law, with an effective date planned for October 1, 2016. In order to block that effort, the Senate bill would still need to pass in the Assembly and be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It’s difficult to predict whether those things will happen, as both sides of the controversy are rife with opinions. The New York Times published an editorial on Tuesday urging lawmakers to reject the ban on bag fees, and the Daily News followed with its own piece which smartly pointed out the Senate bill would infringe upon business owners’ rights, as it would prevent them from voluntarily instituting a bag fee even in the absence of a legal requirement.
NYC’s plastic bag fee was heralded as a major step forward in the city’s long-term sustainability plans. Elsewhere in the country, a number of cities have already instituted similar bag fees, some spanning back nearly a decade. In April of 2007, the city of San Francisco became the first to adopt an outright ban on plastic shopping bags, and it’s important to note that the Bay Area has not ceased to exist in the absence of the the pesky plastic parcels.
Via Crain’s New York