For seven years, a bag tax has been blowing around City Hall.
On Monday, a group of City Council members, environmental groups and fifth graders from Brooklyn New School and P.S. 34 rallied in front of City Hall to urge passage of the tax by April 22nd, Earth Day.
The law would require retail and grocery stores to charge 10 cents for every plastic and paper bag used, or face fines of $250 for the first violation, and $500 for subsequent offenses. If the bill passes, enforcement would begin in January of 2016.
“We want to help everyone in the city make an easy shift to reusable bags.” Margaret Chin said on the steps of City Hall. She is joined by fellow council members Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, and Public Advocate Letitia James, who all support speedy passage of the bill.
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, chairman of the Sanitation Committee, said that plastic bags are “an absolute nightmare” for the sanitation system. Maite Quinn, a representative from Sim’s Recycling, the company which New York City contracts for curbside recycling echoed the point: “We have literally millions of dollars of equipment for the sole purpose of getting plastic bags away from the recyclables that we want.” She said that in addition to presenting “a range of challenges” at the facility, including clogging recycling machinery and contaminating otherwise recyclable materials, the bags present a particular hardship because there is virtually no market for them. The millions of dollars dedicated to the process of isolating and cleaning used plastic bags, makes a product called MRF film that is essentially useless. “We haven’t had one consistent customer, and that customer is usually at zero price,” she said.
Critics of the bill think the fee is a burden for low-income New Yorkers.
The bill promises to distribute reusable bags. The ban the bag coalition has already given out thousands of reusable bags around the city, and is prepared to distribute more. Lander said, “Any New Yorker can reach out to the coalition. We will get New Yorkers the bags they need in order to comply with this law and avoid paying the fee.”
“Plastic bags might pollute the air and we may never see the sun again,” warned one fifth grader. The adorable kid in the photo below made a sign of bags in trees that says, This isn’t natural.
How You Can Help:
- Plastic bags can be recycled, but not at curbside. They can and should be brought back to retail stores. Most NYC supermarkets have bag recycling bins by the front door.
- Let your council members know how you feel. Find them at http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml
- Get in the habit of using reusable bags, put them in convenient places so you have them when and where you need them.
- Many tiny, weightless reusable bags are available. flip and tumble makes reusable produce bags in sets of 5 from Amazon.com (Not sure what they are made of though)
- Inspired by the name given to the one use plastic bag, the kids made their own reusable bags out of T-shirts. You can too! http://www.instructables.com/id/No-Sew-10-Minute-T-Shirt-Tote/
- There are so many cool videos, especially for kids, that can be shared with your social media networks or shown at schools and organizations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vIeyooLfSc
- Click on and support Ban the Bag. Their efforts have all ready kept 210 million bags out of the system in Portland and Washington DC alone! http://www.banthebagspdx.com
Until next week,