March 1st: New York will become the 9th state to ban bags

 

On March 1st, 2020 New York will become the 9th state to prohibit retailers from distributing single-use plastic bags!

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This is great news, because according to the Department of Environmental Conservation, New Yorkers are going through an estimated 23 billion plastic bags a year. (For the record, in 2005, California was going through 30 billion plastic bags per year!) [1].

Like many plastic bans in the past, New York’s Plastic Bag Ban has met with whirlwind of opposition. Some argue that there will be a paper bag shortage if that is the only alternative. Others worry that retailers will sell thicker plastic bags with a 10-cent fee under the guise that they are ‘reusable’ – something that happens in many California grocery stores, like Safeway.

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Photo: pxhere

In place of plastic, stores will sell paper bags for 5-cents each. Families who use the SNAP program will be exempt from paying the fee. But the best solution? Reusable bags! Investing in a well-made reusable bag will end up costing much less overtime than paying for paper bags each time you shop. If you spend $7 on a reusable bag, it will most likely pay for itself after 2-3 grocery trips. (Important note: When searching for reusable bags, try to find bags made of natural materials like hemp whenever possible.)

Most grocery stores sell reusable shopping bags by the checkout counter!

 

Who is exempt from NY’s bag ban?

Not every retailer in the state of New York has to switch to paper bags. According to the new ban, takeout food, medical devices, newspapers, dry cleaned items, and even bulk food and produce items can still be packaged in single-use plastic bags [2]. Medical devices are understandable. For hygienic and safety purposes, plastic is a safer packaging material for things like insulin syringes or chemotherapy drugs than a paper bag.

But we must remember to carry reusable bags or containers for all your bulk or produce whenever possible! Even if thin plastic bags are available by the bulk bins, you do not *have* to use them! Fill up your own reusable cotton totes! Implementing this change to our habits will make a significant impact in reducing the amount of plastic bags we will go through in our lifetime.

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Photo: pxhere

How will the ban be enforced?

According to The Gothamist, retailers caught distributing single-use plastic bags will be fined $250. If they are caught again within twelve months, they can receive a fine over $500 [3].

Do Bag Bans Work?

In short, yes. When actually enforced, bag bans can be successful in reducing plastic bag pollution, but not completely eliminate it.

Before the state of California banned plastic bags in 2016, plastic bag consumption had already dropped significantly from 30 billion per year in 2005 to 13 billion per year in 2014. This was largely due to cities and counties independently banning bags in their jurisdictions [4].

Was this a perfect solution? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, many stores got around this ban by selling bags made of thicker plastic, arguing that these bags were reusable and therefore not single-use. Even worse, they charged customers for the bags, so plastic many companies actually profited off the ban.

Distributing any plastic bag should be banned, even if the bag is made from 100% post consumer recyclables. The fact of the matter is, we have proven that as humans, we cannot be completely responsible for our trash. Even in a perfect closed-loop system where manufacturers took back and recycled their own packaging materials, nothing is stopping Joe Litterman from tossing a plastic bag out of the window of his car.

But these statistics do inspire hope that banning plastic does work. It’s like a reverse Field of Dreams: if you stop making it, they won’t use it.

 

NYC – Need a *FREE* reusable bag?

Take the Zero Waste Pledge, and NYC’s Department of Sanitation will send you one for free!

Sign The Pledge Here

 

 

 

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