Plastic Bag Ban Rollout Gets Complaints

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The state’s plastic bag ban which went into effect on March 1 has some bodega and other shop owners crying foul.

The ban restricts plastic bag distribution by any business that collects tax on behalf of the state. Bodega and takeout bags, that are iconic staples throughout much of the city are no longer permissible; New Yorkers will have to resort to reusable bags instead.

New York is following in the footsteps of California and Hawaii, who were the first states to ban plastic bags. Paper bags are still allowed in the state, however they now carry a 5 cent tax, like plastic bags did before being banned. If store owners do not comply with the ban, they will be subject to first a warning, then fines of $250, and $500 for each additional infraction in the same calendar year.

This is the latest waste reduction law to date, initially starting as a 5 cent tax and later becoming an all out ban with a few exemptions. The law was rolled out initially in 2019, with time given to businesses and consumers to prepare reusable bags for themselves.

One such business is SF Supermarket in East Elmhurst. “We’re going to support the city’s law, it’s good for the environment,” explained James Yang, an investor in the supermarket.

While he will support the city’s initiative, he does take issue with the window of time businesses were given. “You could’ve done a little better with the execution,” explained Yang. “Right now the people don’t know what’s happening, so we have to explain to every single customer why we are doing this.”

He believes that if the city had better communicated the law to residents it would have made the transition much easier. Yang also objects to the timeframe, he believes with at least half a year of time, businesses could have transitioned more properly.

Yang’s support of the new regulation is not shared, as complaints and even a lawsuit have been filed against it. Bodega owners and plastic manufacturers have joined together in an attempt to stop the law from going into effect as is.

One such business is Poly-Pak Industries, Inc., a producer of plastics based out of Melville, New York. Its basis for the lawsuit is rooted in the belief that vinyl bags, which they produce, are just as reusable as cloth or woven bags.

“For us the end goal is to have the state realize that a heavyweight plastic bag is just as reusable as the non-woven totes that come in from China,” Ken Trottere, vice president of marketing and sales. “A heavyweight plastic bag is just as durable and is made from recycled content and is recyclable.”

If the lawsuit ended with a redefinition of what a reusable bag is they would “walk away happy.”

“The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is pleased that a temporary restraining order was not issued in this case so New York’s ban on single-use plastic bags will go into effect as planned on March 1,” the DEC said in a statement. “We have consistently said since the beginning of our outreach campaign that we will focus on education rather than enforcement and today does not change that.”

“But the idea there wasn’t to be punitive, it’s to transform how we’re actually using the bags in shopping areas, in grocery stores, et cetera.” explained Melissa DeRosa, deputy governor of New York.

“So, they’re allowing a grace period for people to ramp up. The idea isn’t to run out on day one and start smacking people with fees. It’s an education effort. We’re trying to help people transition and do it responsibly,” she went on to say.

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