As of March 1, you will not be able to find plastic bags in New York State.
No, literally, across the whole state.
23 billion (that’s billion with a B) plastic bags are used every year in New York. These bags clog waterways, recycling machines, the throats of wildlife, and frankly, our way of life. The Bag Waste Reduction Law by NY State is an amazing piece of legislation and should be celebrated!
I saw the impact 23 billion bags firsthand when I visited the Arcadia Earth exhibit. The picture below shows an installation of plastic bags (23 billion!!!!) representing New York’s use.
The law also extends past grocery stores, to clothes stores, home improvement stores, and more, which makes the impact even greater.
Many many many towns, cities, and countries around the world have already banned the bag, with many more to come. In fact, California has been banning plastic bags for years (it was one of the first things I blogged about here, in 2012!), so it’s a long time coming on the East Coast.
The ordinance took it one step further and is taxing paper bags 5 cents, so it will really pay to bring your bags to the store.
Neighboring New Jersey is taking note, too. Several (and I mean, several) New Jersey towns have adopted bans or taxes on plastic bags. The shore towns especially enforce this, along with plastic straw bans in restaurants.
One thing to note about these bag bans is the introduction of bags that are “10 mils (one “mil” is one thousandth of an inch) or thicker,” which stores claim are “reusable” and therefore exempt under NY state law.
The critique? Of course, these will still end up getting thrown away, hence the problem in the first place. But NY’s DEC says that this kind of bag “too expensive to produce for stores to give them out for free and this type of bag is not currently produced,” and they are expecting retailers to comply with the ban and have paper bans on hand.
While this may not seem like a lot, and just an inconvenience, it really is important in our fight for planet versus plastic.
Individual actions have taken some heat recently, but that’s no reason to stop, AND governmental action to help us really goes a long way.
Overall, I’m seeing a lot of people say that this will be a major inconvenience in New York City — and just imagine what the tourists might say!
And while it will, it’s just one step closer to millions of people who will have to learn not to rely on plastic.