New York City's plan for a 5-cent fee on plastic and paper carryout bags has been stopped — at least temporarily — with the state Legislature voting Feb. 7 to postpone it and look at other ways to reduce bag waste.
Advocates for New York City's bag fee, however, were continuing their fight, encouraging the state's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the legislation and keep the city's fee alive. Cuomo told New York media Feb. 8 it was a “complicated” issue and he would decide in a few days.
However, the speaker of New York's State Assembly, which is also controlled by Democrats, said lawmakers heard from “many constituents” opposed to New York City's bag fee, which is scheduled to take effect Feb. 15.
“It makes sense to press the pause button on this fee in order to do a more thorough investigation on the best ways to reduce paper and plastic waste in our environment,” said Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). “We all share the same goal of reducing plastic waste and improving our environment.”
The state legislation is a temporary measure and would allow New York's City Council to again pass bag fees, in 2018.
Heastie said in a Feb. 7 statement that he wanted to work over the next few months to “develop a solution that works for everyone.”
“There were a number of issues with the local law that made state action necessary,” Heastie said, citing a “disproportionate” impact on the working poor and senior citizens and a provision that would let stores keep the proceeds from bag sales, rather than direct them to environmental programs. As well, he said the city's ordinance would let store charge more than five cents per bag.
“We all care about the environment and want to make a difference,” said New York State Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), one of the leaders of the state Senate's efforts against the city bag fee.
“How do we get there? By taking our state's existing recycling law and enforcing it,” he said. “New Yorkers are sick of being over-fined, over-taxed and over-ticketed.”
But supporters of New York City's bag fee said the law enjoys wide support, would reduce the $12.5 million the city spends a year disposing of an estimated 10 billion single-use bags, and interferes with the city's ability to make decisions about its own waste management.