Report suggests fees for plastic bags or banning them

Staff Reports Posted 16 January 2018 at 12:24 pm

ALBANY – A Task Force looking at the “scourge of plastic bag waste” in New York has sent a report to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature for consideration.

The Task Force has eight options for reducing plastic bags, including banning them or charging a fee for each bag.

Across New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually. A significant number of these bags make their way into the environment causing litter and damaging wildlife, which can be seen within our waterways, along our streets and in our oceans and lakes. Moreover, these bags do not biodegrade – they persist for years.

“As states across the nation and world struggle with the environmental and financial costs of plastic bag waste, New York is developing a comprehensive solution,” said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation and chairman of New York’s Plastic Bag Task Force.

Convened in March 2017, the Task Force was directed to study the growing issue of plastic bag waste and develop a comprehensive statewide plan to address the detrimental impact plastic bags have on the environment.

The options to address plastic bag waste in the report include:

• Strengthen and enforce existing New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act – Continue implementation of the existing New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act while increasing education, enforcement and reporting requirements.

• Manufacturer Responsibility for Recycling of Single-Use Plastic Bags – Require manufacturers to fund and implement a program for the collection and recycling of single-use plastic bags.

• Fee on Single-Use Plastic Bags – Institute a fee on single-use plastic bags.

• Fee per Transaction for Single-Use Bags – Under this option, rather than a fee per bag, a single fee would be imposed for the use of single-use bags (i.e., a fee would be assessed whether a consumer received one bag or 10 bags).

• Fee on Single-Use Plastic and Paper Bags

• Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags – Implement a ban on the sale and use of single-use plastic bags.

• Hybrid – Implement a ban on plastic bags with a fee on the allowable alternatives.

• Continue Existing Policies – Continue implementation of the existing New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act.

In addition, the report notes the need for any approach taken to include an education and outreach campaign to make consumers aware of the problems ‎with plastic bags for the environment and waste stream, encourage the use of reusable bags and how to properly recycle plastic bags.

As part of the education and outreach campaign, the report recommends providing funds to support the distribution of reusable bags with a focus on low and fixed income individuals. If the policy approach taken includes fees, the report suggests that any funding received by the State be dedicated to the Environmental Protection Fund.

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