ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Two Democratic state lawmakers from Manhattan on Monday called for a statewide ban on the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag and a fee on paper bags as a way to encourage renewable alternatives and crack down on one of the greatest sources of environmental pollution.
New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags each year, according to the findings of a state panel formed to study their effects on the environment. Many end up in landfills, or as plastic pollution in oceans and other waterways.
The legislation proposed by Sens. Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman would prohibit their use as shopping bags — though plastic food carryout bags and smaller plastic bags used to store produce or meat would be excluded.
It would be up to retailers to set the fee on paper bags, though the bill would set a minimum of 10 cents and a maximum of a quarter. People using food stamps or other food assistance benefits would not pay the fee.
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“We have a responsibility to protect our quality of life, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren,” Krueger said in a statement announcing the proposal. “That means ensuring that our trees and our sidewalks are not littered with plastic bags, that our rivers and streams are not degraded by plastic pollution, and that the food we eat is not poisoned by the residue of our own plastic waste.”
The bill hasn’t been schedule to a vote, and is likely to run into the same bipartisan opposition that doomed New York City’s plan to impose a bag ban last year.
More than a dozen local communities in New York state have adopted bans or fees so far, but a 5-cent fee approved in New York City was blocked by officials in Albany last year. Lawmakers from both parties said it could be unfair to low-income consumers who can’t afford to pay for bags, a problem Krueger and Hoylman say their proposal was designed to avoid.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called the city’s bag ban “deeply flawed” when he signed legislation to block the local law from taking effect. He said the plastic bag issue was a “statewide challenge” that shouldn’t be addressed in a piecemeal manner.