What does New York’s plastic bag ban mean for you?

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y (WSYR-TV) — Despite only a few weeks before it starts, New York’s upcoming plastic bag ban still has a lot of people asking questions.

Why did state lawmakers decide to ban them? What bags *can* I use? And when will I need a reusable bag?

The law is a big change for a lot of folks, but whether you support it or are against it, being prepared is the best way to tackle it.

When does the ban start?

New York’s plastic bag ban goes into effect on March 1, 2020. The ban was passed in the state budget back in March of 2019. State officials delayed the start to help New Yorkers and businesses prepare.

Why are the bags being banned?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office and the State DEC have said the main reason is to protect New York’s environment and reduce plastic waste overall.

“Film plastics, plastic retail bags they often are used on average for 12 minutes before they become trash or unfortunately litter,” said Kristen Lawton, public information officer for Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency.

According to the EPA, shopping bags and other film plastics like cereal bags and paper towel cover make up around 5 percent of all trash and can pollute the environment for hundreds of years.

Where will bags no longer be available?

After March 1, single-use plastic shopping bags won’t be available in grocery stores, retail stores like Kohl’s, Target and Marshalls, as well as at the mall.

New Yorkers will need a reusable bag for most shopping scenarios. Whether plastic or canvas, any type of bag will work.

Most reusable plastic bags actually require less energy to make than most cloth ones.

Reusing the single-use shopping bags stockpiled at your home is also acceptable.

“Taking a couple of extra minutes to make sure your reusable bags are in your vehicle or on your person so you can have them with you when you go to the grocery store or other retail stores because you’re really making a big difference through that small act,” Lawton said.

What exceptions are there?

Newspaper bags, Ziploc bags, trash bags, garment bags, bags for bulk food or bulk hardware (nuts & bolts) will still be available.

For health and safety reasons, single-use plastic bags will also be used for food takeout as well as prescription drugs.

Paper bags? 5 cent fee?

Stores will carry paper bags, but environmentally they’re not the ideal solution. Making paper bags actually uses more energy than making plastic bags, but biodegrade at a much faster rate.

All Central New York counties, except for Tompkins County, have opted out of a 5 cent paper bag fee. Wegmans, however, is charging 5 cents that will be donated to the Food Bank of Central New York.

“I think this law starts out to be a little bit of an inconvenience, it’s something extra we need to think about but at the end of the day this is really a huge step because it’s going to reduce the amount of plastic waste out there in just immeasurable ways,” Lawton said.

What other states have plastic bag laws?

California and Hawaii have similar plastic bag bans in place and four states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Vermont- have bans starting in the next few years.

New Jersey and Oregon lawmakers are working to pass legislation.

On the opposite side, there are 15 states that prevent plastic bag restrictions.

Those states include:

  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • Idaho
  • North Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Michigan
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Mississippi
  • Tennessee
  • Wisconsin
  • Pennsylvania
  • Minnesota

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