New York Likely To Face Paper Bag Shortage, Experts Say

With a plastic bag ban set to take effect statewide in less than a month, New York may soon face a paper bag shortage, according to new reports.

There may be a paper bag shortage in New York.

There may be a paper bag shortage in New York.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Last year, citing pollution and environmental concerns, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that as of March 1, 2020, single-use plastic bags would be banned throughout the state.

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.

With the plastic bag ban on the horizon, some are fearing of a paper bag shortage, as retailers will be permitted to sell them to customers for five cents each at checkout.

According to a New York Post report, 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.

Instead, store owners are encouraging shoppers to stock up on reusable bags with the ban looming. Some stores have already started running low on some paper bags.

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.

The report states that “most sturdy paper sacks with separate handles — like those offered at Trader’s Joe and Whole Foods — are already spoken for by some of the largest chains and not available to independent retailers.”

New York joins California and Hawaii as the only states where single-use plastic bags have been banned.

"From bold action to address climate change, to historic investments in clean energy, New York has been at the forefront of efforts to preserve and strengthen our environment, and the plastic bag ban is the next step forward," Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul stated. "Once again New York is demonstrating leadership with a common-sense reform to create lasting change and ensure a greener future for our planet.”

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.”

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