Tomorrow the City Council will begin hearings on a bill that seeks to charge 10 cents per paper or plastic bag used by customers throughout New York City. The bill would hand that miniature fine back to store owners. New Yorkers use 5.2 billion carryout bags a year, so that's $520 million
A similar measure exists in some form in Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., and Washington D.C.; in the last two cities, plastic bag use dropped by 60% and 95%, respectively. As of last year, New York City was spending $10 million of taxpayers' money to ship plastic bags off to landfills. Pick your poison: 10 cents on the individual, or $10 million on the collective coffer.
The bag tax was first introduced in 2008 by Mayor Bloomberg, but his proposed 5-cent fine was a tax for the city, not a fee for storeowners, and was soon struck down by the Council. This past August, during the waning days of the Bloomberg administration, the bill, this time featuring a 10 cent fine, was re-introduced by a paltry eight sponsors and never made it to the floor.
Now the bill has 19 sponsors from a more progressive Council, just behind the 26-vote threshold needed for a passing vote. Support from legislative leaders also seems to be a bit stronger this time around. Bag It NYC, a group supporting the ban, would sponsor reusable bag donations to low-income communities.
Public Advocate Letitia James has thrown her support behind it, while Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's office is currently reviewing the legislation. On the campaign trail, Mayor de Blasio released his vision for a zero-waste New York, which included bans on plastic bags.