Brooklyn City Council Members Brad Lander and Antonio Reynoso‘s revised measure to greatly reduce the amount of plastic bags filling up landfills drew a broad rally of support yesterday on the steps outside of City Hall.
The intent behind the measure Intro 209-A, which Manhattan City Council Member Margaret Chin also co-sponsored, is to dramatically reduce single-use plastic and paper bag waste in New York City.
Currently, New Yorkers throw away more than 9 billion plastic bags each year, over 91,000 tons of solid waste sent to landfills, at a cost of over $12.5 million. The bags, which are made of petroleum and take millions of years to decompose, get stuck in trees, litter streets and beaches, clog storm drains and recycling equipment, and become part of giant islands of plastic sludge in the oceans.
When first introduced, the bill proposed retailers charging shoppers 10 cents a plastic bag, but several Council Members and advocates for the working-class and poor argued it was like another tax.
Under the amended legislation, retailers will be required to charge 5 cents for single-use plastic and paper bags. Customers who bring their own reusable bags will pay no charge. In cities around the country that have passed similar laws, upwards of 80% of customers bring reusable bags for most of their shopping trips.
Additionally, the amended bill requires more robust outreach and education about the bill in multiple languages, and requires a study on the impact of the legislation on litter, solid waste, and bag use reductions, as well as the public’s reaction to the law across demographic groups.
“New York City must seize this moment to get 9 billion plastic bags out of our trees, parks, playgrounds, storm drains, beaches, oceans, and landfills,” said Lander. “In city after city, a small fee has been overwhelmingly successful in getting people to bring their own reusable bags when they shop — across lines of race, ethnicity, age, income and neighborhood — and generated a 60% to 90% drop in plastic bag waste. We’re thrilled that a majority of City Council Members have signed onto the amended bill.”
Reynoso said as Chair of the Council’s Committee on Sanitation, the legislation represents a big step toward the City’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030.
“Waste reduction is both an environmental issue and an equity issue, and we can all do our part by remembering to bring reusable bags. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill,” he said.
The city council is expected to vote on the measure sometime in the ensuing weeks with legislators hoping to have it passed before Earth Day, April 22.