Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo marked Earth Day on Monday by signing into law a measure banning most single-use plastic bags, making New York the third state in the nation to enact a statewide bag policy.
The ban, which goes into effect in March 2020, prohibits retailers that collect sales tax, including supermarkets and small businesses, from handing out disposable plastic bags, with a few exceptions.
Garment bags, trash bags and any bags used to hold certain foods, such as fruits and sliced meats, are exempt from the ban. Plastics used to wrap restaurant take-out food are also exempt.
“You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we’re putting an end to this blight on our environment.”
The state Department of Environmental Conservation will work with stakeholders and community leaders to ensure the ban does not disproportionately impact low and moderate income communities, and to work with environmental justice groups to distribute reusable bags, according to Cuomo’s office.
Counties or cities can opt to charge a five-cent fee for single-use paper bags. Three cents would go to the Environmental Protection Fund, while the other two cents will go to the locality to pay for distribution of reusable bags.