Governor’s bill would ban single-use plastic shopping bags

Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a program bill that would ban single-use plastic carryout bags in New York state in response to a new report by a task force charged with addressing the environmental impact of plastic bags and developing a solution to the use and disposal of them.

The legislation (S.8257) was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on April 24. Currently, there is no Assembly version.

Cuomo created the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force in March 2017. It is led by Basil Seggos, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, and co-chairs Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats and Assemblyman Steve Englebright, D-Setauket.

The task force studied communities in New York state that already have plastic bag laws in place.

According to the report, municipalities in the state with some form of ban on plastic shopping bags include Mamaroneck, the village of New Paltz, Long Beach, Larchmont, Hastings-on-Hudson, New Castle, Rye, the village of Patchogue, the village and town of Southampton, the village and town of Easthampton and Suffolk County.

The statewide legislation is based on recommendations included in the report.

According to the bill memo, “a statewide solution is necessary to eliminate the costly and negative impacts of plastic bags on New York’s natural resources.”

The bill would ban all non-reusable plastic bags with an exception for those used to wrap uncooked meat, fish or poultry; those used to package bulk or lose items such as fruits or vegetables; plastic bags that contain sliced food to order; newspaper bags; plastic bags sold in bulk; garment bags; prepackaged plastic bags such as trash bags and food storage bags; bags provided by a restaurant to carry out or deliver food.

Green Party gubernatorial candidate, Howie Hawkins, called Cuomo’s efforts a “publicity stunt,” noting the legislation was introduced the same day climate change activists held a protest at the Capitol urging Cuomo to “Walk the Talk on Climate.”

“While he likes to proclaim himself as a national leader on climate change, he is flooding the state with imported fracked gas, giving billions of dollars to old nukes, and is getting only 3 to 4 percent of the state’s electricity from renewables,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins supports statewide plastic bag ban legislation that couples with a fee on paper bags, similar to legislation in California. He says that the fee is vital to ensure that consumers do not simply turn to paper bags.

“We should be not be harming our environment, spending our tax dollars and littering our communities solely to protect the profits of the plastic industry,” Hawkins said.

If passed this session, the new law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.