Op-Ed | Packaging Reduction and Recycling Act: A bodega owner’s perspective

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D. Perkinson

As a bodega owner who has struggled over the past thirty years to make a success of my Bronx bodegas, I’ve seen firsthand how legislation coming out of Albany impacts bodegueros – and usually not in a good way. While some laws aim to uplift and support local businesses, others pose significant challenges; and where they do it is as a result of a lack of understanding of our lived experience. 

The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, currently making waves in New York State, falls squarely into the latter category.

The bill presents itself as a noble effort to tackle the mounting plastic waste crisis. Unfortunately, it fails to consider the collateral damage it inflicts on small grocers and bodega owners. Our bodegas are essential for the underserved communities that we serve, and for this legislation to work for us, it needs to be amended to take into consideration the harm that it will cause our stores.

One of our primary concerns stems from the bill’s requirement for companies to redesign their products sold in New York in order to make them more recyclable. This mandate sounds reasonable on the surface, but in reality, it spells trouble for bodega and grocery store owners. The cost of redesigning packaging and implementing new materials will undoubtedly trickle down to us, the retailers. This means increased expenses, tighter profit margins, and potentially higher prices for consumers.

What’s even more troubling is the bill’s failure to address the unique challenges faced by spaced constrained grocery stores like ours. Unlike larger supermarkets with greater resources-and especially more space-small stores like ours will be put in a bind by this legislation. As a result, we’ll be forced to make tough decisions about the products we can afford to stock and sell. This limitation not only narrows consumer choice but also jeopardizes the livelihoods of countless bodega owners and their employees in many low-income communities across the state.

But the impact doesn’t end there. Many of the top-selling products in our stores are purchased using SNAP dollars, which are subject to the bill’s packaging requirements. This means that a significant portion of our inventory — essential items for many vulnerable families — could vanish from our shelves. The repercussions of this loss extend beyond mere inconvenience; they represent a barrier to access for those who rely on these products to feed their families.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill’s insistence on selling products in bulk will have a discriminatory impact on our low-income customers. While bulk purchases might appeal to some suburban customers, they certainly don’t align with the income limitations and space challenges of the great majority of my customers. 

Put simply, forcing us to stock these bulk items will jeopardize the viability of our stores, while also having a real overall negative impact on our communities. 

The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, though well-intentioned, fails to consider the business realities of small stores like mine. Its provisions threaten to disrupt the delicate balance of our operations, diminish consumer choice, and exacerbate food insecurity among vulnerable communities. 

As lawmakers move forward with this legislation, it’s crucial that they engage with local business owners to come up with solutions that balance environmental goals with the need to ensure that bodegas and other small businesses are sustained and thrive in those communities that desperately need them. 


Francisco Marte is the founder and president of the Bodega and Small Business Association.