New York governor floats statewide plastic bag ban / Ban also in Boston?
In what on the surface seems like an about-face from his stance two years ago, Andrew Cuomo, governor of the US state of New York, has introduced a bill calling for a ban on single-use plastic carrier bags by 2019. The governor, who will stand for re-election in November 2018, said the proposed statewide ban is part of an effort to fight the “blight of plastic bags” that he said is “taking a devastating toll on our streets, our water and our natural resources.” In 2016, reacting to a negative vote by the State Assembly (lower house of the state legislature), Cuomo ended New York City’s plans to charge 5 cents (EUR 0.04) for single-trip bags of plastic or paper a day before it was due to take effect – see of 20.02.2017. The proposed ban was part of mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Zero Waste to Landfill by 2030” drive – see of 18.05.2016.

Cuomo said his current initiative reflects the findings of a task force review he convened last year after blocking the city bill. A ban was only one of eight options, he said, adding that the review also outlined a number of drawbacks, for paper bags, especially that they cost retailers three to five times as much as the comparable plastic. Looking at the details of the proposal, some critics suggested that Cuomo’s proposed rules were too lax to make a substantial dent in plastic waste volume. Some called it a political ploy in view of the upcoming elections, while also noting that the announcement came a day after Earth Day on 22 April.

The proposed statewide legislation would exempt bags that contain raw meat, fish or poultry, as well as bags sold in bulk and those used in bulk packaging of fruit and dried goods. Additionally, delicatessen packaging, newspaper bags, rubbish, food storage, garment bags and takeaway food bags would be exempt. Beyond that, the state Department of Environmental Conservation would have the power to exempt certain other bags.

It is not yet clear what chance a statewide ban would have to become law in New York. An assembly spokesman told The New York Times that it supports a ban, but not a charge. The speaker of the legislative body, he said, “supports banning unnecessary plastic waste, and we will review this proposal.” In the last round, Cuomo called the city’s bill “deeply flawed” as it allowed merchants to keep the 5-cents fee. He repeated an argument often heard in US bag debates. Merchants, however, have countered that they are not pocketing a lot of money as they must pay the manufacturer for the bags. If the bill does pass, New York would join California as the only two US states officially banning single-trip plastic bags – see of 17.11.2016. All of Hawaii’s counties have bans.

Cuomo is not the only politician running for office in New York to publicly embrace environmental causes. His opponent in the Democratic primary, Cynthia Nixon, an actress and environmental activist, is supporting a bill put forward in the assembly that would see the state switch to using 100% renewable energy by 2050. According to reports, this bill has little chance of passing, especially as the Republican-dominated state senate opposes it.
Boston city council passes plastic bag ban
In another large US city, Boston, Massachusetts, the city council recently voted 2-0 to ban single-use plastic bags. The measure is now on the desk of the city’s mayor, Marty Walsh, for review. Along with the ban on plastic, Boston’s proposal would require merchants to charge at least 5 cents for other types of reusable bags, compostable plastic or paper carrier bags. Shops would be allowed to keep the fee. If passed, the legislation would take effect in one year. To ease the transition, the council said it would make free reusable bags available to shoppers.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance (Washington, D.C.;, which represents plastic bag manufacturers, has called on the mayor to veto the council’s measure. It argues that planning plastic would encourage the use of products that are “worse for the environment.” Council members supporting the ban argue that the convenience of plastic bags does not outweigh the significant cost of collecting the bags for recycling.
07.05.2018 [239606-0]
Published on 07.05.2018

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