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New York City Mulls Plastic Bag Fee

hilex poliA bill was announced in New York City last week that could see retail and grocery stores charging consumers at least 10 cents per plastic bag used, either as a fee for the bag or as a tax.

New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic bags per year, with 100,000 tons of plastic bags sent to landfills at a pricetag of about $10 million per year, according to the New York City Office of Management and Budget (via Crain’s New York).

New York State has an existing law, the Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act, that requires large retail stores and shopping malls, as well as medium to large chain stores that sell products and provide plastic carryout bags, to accept clean plastic bags for recycling, and to stock reusable bags for purchase. It was enacted in January 2009.

Councilman Brad Lander is heading up the effort, and hopes it will bring results such as those seen in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, cities that have seen plastic bag usage fall by 60% and 95% respectively.

In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg led a charge to impose a six-cent tax per plastic bag used, but opposition from consumers and retailers stymied the effort. Lander believes the new legislation will fare better because of how other cities have fared with such measures.

The city could not tax bags without approval from the state legislator, but if the city requires that stores charge for bags rather than taxing them, state approval is not needed, writes Waste & Recycling News.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which represents plastic bag manufacturers such as Hilex Poli, released a statement (via Capital New York) saying: “The proponents of this bill are misinformed and largely rely on science that has been hijacked by environmental activists. A grocery bag tax pushes shoppers toward less sustainable options, like reusable bags, which cannot be recycled, are made from foreign oil and imported at a rate of 500 million annually.”

Opposition is also expected to come from restaurateurs, retailers, and advocates for low-income families. Consumers, also opposed to such laws, say they have other household uses for shopping bags, including using them for disposal of garbage and as lunch bags. In fact, the American Progressive Bag Alliance says that, in addition to recycling, 90% of Americans reuse their plastic bags.

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