Plastic bags serve as an emblem of environmental strife, which is why New York State has made a move to ban the (plastic) bag entirely by March 2020. While plastic bags are just one element of the single-use movement that has caused untold destruction to our oceans, forests and planet as a whole; banning them is inarguably an important piece of the environmental puzzle.
New York State is following in the West Coast’s footsteps after California became the first state to ban plastic bags in 2018. Hawaii has also effectively banned them, as all of the state’s counties have passed legislation agreeing to the ban.
According to the New York Times, the ban would have a number of caveats, including food takeout bags used by restaurants, bags used to wrap deli or meat counter products and bags for bulk items. Newspaper bags would also be exempted, as would garment bags and bags sold in bulk, such as trash or recycling bags.
The plan would have an additional element allowing counties to opt into a 5-cent fee on paper bags—revenue that would go to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund as well as a separate fund to buy reusable bags for consumers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement to The Hill that “for far too long plastic bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways and that’s why I proposed a ban in this year’s budget.”
“With this smart, multi-pronged action, New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers,” he added.
We know we’re probs preaching to the choir here, but the ban reiterates the destruction that single-use plastic unleashes on the environment. Here’s the deal:
50% of plastic produced is single-use. The average lifespan of a plastic bag is just twelve minutes. It takes 500 or more years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill, and 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually.
Birds often mistake shredded plastic bags for food and end up filling their stomachs with toxic debris. For hungry sea turtles, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between jellyfish and floating plastic bags. Fish eat thousands of tons of plastic a year, transferring it up the food chain to bigger fish and marine mammals. So to say that banning the plastic bag is crucial for the future of marine ecosystems and our planet at large is an understatement.
Environmental groups that are supporting the ban concur that non-biodegradable bags are super harmful to the environment, and some groups, such as the Nature Conservancy of New York are in full support of charging the suggested 5-cent fee on other single-use bags, such as paper ones.
Certain groups, like the Food Industry Alliance of New York State—which serves to represent many players in the state’s grocery industry—oppose the ban. The group said in a statement that it believes paper bags are the real environmental threat and that the plastic ban will be harmful to business.
“A plastic bag ban will simply increase the financial duress for New York’s grocery store industry without achieving the goal of improving the environment,” the group said. “While we strongly oppose this proposal from Governor Cuomo, we look forward to working with the administration on a more sustainable solution that benefits both our industry and environment.”