Following several months of delays caused by lawsuits and the COVID-19 pandemic, a statewide law banning the use of single-use plastic bags in supermarkets, delis and hypermarkets will finally be enforced on Monday.
The Bag Waste Reduction Act came into effect on March 1 and is part of New York State’s environmental goal to reduce the number of bags used throughout New York State (currently 23 billion per year). The initial grace period for companies was until April 1 to allow them time to adapt to the new law without being fined.
However, when the law came into effect, Bodega and the Small Business Association sued the state and asked the judge to block the implementation of the new measure, claiming that the law was “unconstitutional and inconsistent”
Enforcement was postponed again until June, and the state allowed stores to continue to provide plastic bags so that store clerks could avoid handling customers’ reusable bags during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no evidence between the spread of the virus in the plastic bag.
Finally, in August, the state Supreme Court Judge Gerald W. Connolly ruled that the law can continue after another two months of grace.
The DEC commissioner said: “The court’s decision is a victory and proof of New York State’s efforts to end the scourge of disposable plastic bags, and it is also a direct condemnation of plastic bag manufacturers who have tried to stop the law and DEC’s implementation of the regulation.” (Basil Seggos) said in a statement after this decision: “Like we have been there for many months, DEC encourages New Yorkers to switch to reusable bags wherever they shop, and use common sense. Precautions to keep reusable bags clean. The court has ruled that DEC will begin to enforce the ban on October 19. It’s time for BYOBagNY.”
According to the law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Earth Day 2019, shoppers can bring their own handbags for groceries and other items. Stores can sell brown bags at a price of five cents each, although families that rely on food stamps or “women, babies, and children” food programs do not have to pay. Stores can also sell reusable bags at higher prices.
Companies can still use plastic bags to store prescription drugs, newspapers to subscribe users, take-out meals, sliced food, and dry cleaning.
The income from the 5-cent paper bag fee will be allocated by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and a city plan to provide free reusable luggage to New Yorkers. Retailers who violate the baggage ban will face warnings, but will be charged $250 for the second violation, and $500 for violations after the same calendar year.
Still have questions about what the plastic bag ban means for you and the planet? Go this way.