The statewide ban of single-use plastic bags in New York is fast approaching.
As of Sunday, March 1, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation goes into effect, banning plastic bags statewide.
According to Cuomo, New Yorkers use billions of plastic bags annually, which do not biodegrade, creating massive amounts of litter in neighborhoods and waterways and posing a threat to the health of area residents and the environment. The ban is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal.
Once supplies of plastic bags are finished, reusable bags made of cloth or other machine-washable fabric or non-film plastic material will be required to be used and provided by retailers.
The new regulations released this week will allow stores to issue plastic bags if they are washable, can be used at least 125 times, carry 22 pounds over at least 175 feet, and have an attached strap that doesn’t stretch with normal use. Regulators also proposed that any reusable plastic bags be at least one-hundredth of an inch thick.
In response, some retailers have been offering free reusable bags that can be used for shopping at New York stores. They have also arranged information tables and forums to answer questions about the ban.
It is estimated that a paper bag shortfall could last upwards of five years, and there have been reports of outages in the Midwest due to retailers attempting to bolster their supplies. Fear of shortages has led to store owners attempting to find short and long-term solutions.
Experts estimate that New York will require four billion bags — approximately 52 percent of all the production capacity in North America - to comply with the new law.
New York joins California, Oregon, and Hawaii as the only states where single-use plastic bags have been banned. Single-use paper bags will still be available for a five-cent fee.
"You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage," Cuomo said last year. "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we're putting an end to this blight on our environment.”
New York joins California and Hawaii as the only states where single-use plastic bags have been banned.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, single-use plastic bags are one of the top five single-use plastics found in the environment by magnitude, and they are one of the top five items encountered in coastline clean-ups.
Between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States and they are not acceptable at certain recycling centers.
The EPA estimates that 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originated on land, which includes plastic bags, and in New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, which contributes to pollution both on and off land. These bags do not biodegrade and they persist for years.
"Plastic pollution has become a serious threat to our lakes, rivers and marine environment as well as public health. Scientists are finding plastic pollution in shellfish and finfish, making its way to our dinner plates,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “Giving up plastic bags and using reusable bags is one easy, reasonable step each member of the public can take to help combat the plastic pollution epidemic. It is time for everyone to get on the plastic bag 'ban wagon.”
"More than just an eyesore, plastic bags are a major source of pollution and cause tremendous environmental damage. The 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers each year get stuck in our trees, blow along our beaches and parks, and endanger our marine and wildlife," Sen. José Serrano, Chair of Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said. "For the last decade, I have been working with my colleagues to reduce or eliminate plastic bag use in New York and I am thrilled to see the enactment of this statewide ban, making New York one of the leading states to tackle this important issue."
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