Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on Earth Day that bans the sale of single-use plastic bags in New York starting in March 2020, a significant step to reduce pollution and protect fish and wildlife. “Single-use” plastic bags do not degrade and often wind up as litter on lands and in waters, harming birds or wildlife that ingest the plastic.
It is estimated that New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually, and nationwide studies show that approximately 50 percent of single-use plastic bags end up as litter. In addition to preventing plastic bag litter in our environment, this ban will also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal, from petroleum used to produce the bags to emissions from the transportation of bags to landfills.
“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,” Governor Cuomo said.
He added, “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.”
DEC will work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure the rollout of this initiative does not disproportionately impact low and moderate income and environmental justice communities through the distribution of reusable bags.
In March 2017, Governor Cuomo created the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force, chaired by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. The task force met several times to develop a uniform, comprehensive and equitable solution to the plastic bag problem. The final report analyzed the impacts of single-use plastic bags and provided several options for legislation that could help develop a statewide solution to the problem.
The legislation signed on Earth Day, April 22, bans the provision of single-use, plastic carryout bags at any point of sale, and provides DEC exclusive jurisdiction over all matters related to plastic bags. Under the new law, garment bags, trash bags, and any bags used to wrap or contain certain foods, such as fruits and sliced meats are exempt from the ban. Counties or cities will also be permitted to charge a five-cent fee for single-use paper bags. Three cents from the fee will go to the Environmental Protection Fund, while the other two cents will go to the locality to pay for distribution of reusable bags.
New York joins California and Hawaii as the only states where single-use plastic bags are banned.