New York State Finally Approves Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags

New York becomes the third US state to ban single-use plastic bags, following California and Hawaii. The Bill was tabled last year.

A move celebrated by environmentalist as a “massive win”, New York state lawmakers have agreed to ban most single-use plastic bags state-wide as part of a $175.5 billion budget deal announced on Monday.

With this New York became the third state in US to outlaw plastic bags. In 2016, California ratified a similar law, and all of Hawaii’s counties have enacted these regulations in the following year.

While the bill is a welcome move, the enactment will have to wait, which will take effect from March 1, 2020. The grocery stores, retailers, and superstores will no longer be allowed to dispense plastic bags to customers.

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According to a statement from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office the legislation “allows counties and cities to opt in to a five-cent fee on paper bags, with 40 percent of the revenue supporting local programs to buy reusable bags for low and fixed income consumers, and 60 percent of the revenue supporting programs in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.” It is important to add that New York’s ban allows several exceptions, like wrapped deli meat, restaurant takeout bags and plastic garbage bags.

Though there remains room for improvement, the legislation is still a welcome step in the right direction for the US’ fourth most populous state. About 23 billion single-use plastic bags are dispensed each year in New York state, according to a report from a NY state task force. The city of New York alone disposes of 71,000 tons of plastic bags each year, the Citizens Budget Commission said.

Among US states only Hawaii and New Jersey are considering the toughest statewide plastic and Styrofoam bans in the country. New Jersey’s proposed law would ban Styrofoam beverage and food containers, plastic bags and plastic straws from all retailers and restaurants in the state. Hawaii’s proposed Senate bill goes even further, not only banning Styrofoam containers but nearly all plastic from fast food and full-service restaurants, including drink bottles, utensils, straws, stirring sticks – even garbage bags.

Currently, single-use plastic bags account for 12% of all the waste US creates and recycles only about 10% of all its plastic waste, which is steadily decreasing after China closed its door to plastic recycling last year.

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