Soon supermarkets and most shops in New York city soon may charge shoppers 5 cents for disposable bags.
On April 28, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito backed an effort to reduce plastic bag use and waste.
Councilman Brad Lander, D-Brooklyn, championed the legislation, which will charge a nickel for each plastic or paper bag New Yorkers use at supermarkets and shops. The fee is meant to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags to stores instead of taking plastic ones.
The city spends more than $12 million a year dumping 91,000 pounds of plastic bags in landfills, according to the council. Lander had already amassed majority support for the bill, but it could be the tightest vote of the council's legislative season, he told Crain's New York Business, which is a sister publication of Plastics News.
Opponents of the bill say its yet another tax on city residents and burdens the poor. The proposed fee was reduced to 5 cents from 10 cents to address such concerns.
Mark-Viverito's support for the bill guarantees its passage during a May 5 session of the City Council
"For too long, plastic bags have clogged our storm drains, littered our green spaces and tangled in our trees," she said in a statement. "With this legislation, we can take a step toward a cleaner and sustainable city.”
Mark-Viverito said that New York "must join efforts with cities across the country and around the world to tackle this issue head-on." Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles already have similar laws and have seen drastic drops in plastic bag use.
"The legislation before the council does just that, by incentivizing New Yorkers to bring our own bags, with common-sense exemptions for economic and logistical realities faced by consumers and retailers," she said.
Purchases made with food stamps will be exempt from the bag fee, as will bags used for medication at pharmacies, prepared foods from restaurants and thin bags used for produce and meats at grocery stores.
The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Margaret Chin, will also set standards for compostable plastic bags and prevent bags from being falsely marked "biodegradable." The council is expected to vote on the bill May 5, according to staff.