New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing a plastic bag ban and a bottle bill expansion in his new budget, one of the more prominent pieces of environmentally-themed plastic legislation in statehouses around the country.
Cuomo's 2019 state budget proposal would ban plastic bags, allow local governments to put fees on paper bags and expand the state's container deposit laws to cover many more types of plastic containers, including sports and energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and bottled tea and coffee.
One of Cuomo's top environmental aides said during a legislative hearing Jan. 23 that the bottle bill expansion will help cities better deal with the impact their waste collection budgets have taken since China banned recyclable scrap imports.
"To respond to the global recycling crisis, we propose to expand the bottle bill to make most non-alcoholic beverage containers eligible for a 5-cent redemption, and we must ban the plastic bag," said Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation.
Putting more types of containers in the bottle bill system will capture material that remains valuable for recycling, Seggos said. "What we're trying to [do is] bring a clean flow of recyclable materials into an appropriate source and have those well recycled."
As well, he told legislators that Cuomo, a Democrat, wants to ban plastic bags to deal with litter and environmental impacts.
"New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags annually, each used for an average of just 12 minutes," Seggos said. "They are a blight on our waterways, sidewalks and parks and damage recycling operations."
Other states are considering bag measures as well.
New Jersey, for example, is considering a ban on plastic bags and fees on paper and reusable bags, as part of legislation that would also ban plastic straws and expanded polystyrene foam containers in food service.
The Surfrider Foundation called it "far and away the most progressive plastics legislation currently moving on a statewide level."
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) last year vetoed an earlier bill that would have put a nickel fee on both plastic and paper bags but said in his veto statement that he preferred stronger action against single-use bags.
The more comprehensive bill now under consideration is a response to that. It passed a Senate committee in September but has not advanced since.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance is urging lawmakers in New Jersey to reject the bill and instead invest more in recycling and litter reduction programs.
APBA said a bag ban would hurt existing plastic film recycling efforts, and it pointed to government studies that they said showed production of plastic bags used once have less overall environmental impact in areas like water use and greenhouse gas emissions than paper bags or cotton bags used more than 100 times.