Plastic isn't so fantastic after all, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided.
The governor, facing a left-wing challenge in September's New York Democratic primary, unveiled legislation that would ban plastic carry-out bags at stores statewide starting in January. The decision comes more than a year after he signed a bill canceling a New York City law that would have implemented a 5-cent surcharge on disposable shopping bags, a municipal measure he called "deeply flawed."
His statement in an April 23 news release accompanying the announcement echoed the arguments of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council members who passed the fee: bags crowd landfills, strangle wildlife and accumulate in waterways.
"The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment," Cuomo said. "As the old proverb goes: 'We did not inherit the earth, we are merely borrowing it from our children,' and with this action we are helping to leave a stronger, cleaner and greener New York for all."
The ban will not apply to the clear plastic bags used to wrap meat, fish, vegetables or bulk items, nor to synthetic reusable bags. Unlike the city law, it does not deal with paper pouches, so even if it passes, it might not go very far toward getting shoppers to bring reusable bags to the store.
Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander, who championed the city's bag-fee legislation, reacted hopefully but skeptically to the governor's proposal.
"If Gov. Cuomo has actually gotten serious about reducing the billions of plastic bags that New Yorkers send to landfills each month, it would be great news," Lander tweeted. "But his announcement today looks like — gasp — election year Earth Day politics."
The state bill Cuomo signed in 2017 was largely the handiwork of Brooklyn state Sen. Simcha Felder, a conservative Democrat who caucuses with Republicans and provides the margin of their one-seat majority in the upper chamber of the Legislature. The Democratic-dominated Assembly, following the lead of Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick, also passed the anti-fee bill.
The lower house had previously pressured the city to delay implementation of the impost with the threat of legislative action.
The state legislation struck down the city's law but allowed the city to pass another one in a year's time. But the council has not advanced such a measure.
Cuomo is being challenged by actress Cynthia Nixon in the Democratic primary.