Governor Andrew Cuomo will reveal details about his 2019 budget proposal on Tuesday, but he announced two of the budget's green measures over the weekend: He is proposing to expand the bottle bill so non-alcoholic drink containers can be redeemed for five cents, as well as a ban on all single-use plastic bags.
Cuomo first proposed a plastic bag ban bill last year, after joining the legislature in blocking a five cents single-use bag surcharge that NYC sought to implement in 2017. Cuomo objected to the local surcharge because it would have directed the five cent fee to merchants, which he said would yield an "unjustifiable and unnecessary" profit for private enterprise. Last year's bag ban bill died in the then-Republican controlled Senate.
In a statement yesterday, Cuomo said, "While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation's strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations. These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water and create a cleaner and greener New York for all."
Environmental groups welcomed the news, with one caveat. A statement from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Riverkeeper said, "This is the beginning of the end for the scourge of plastic bag pollution in New York. However, experience shows that a fee on paper bags must accompany the proposed ban on plastic bags, to avoid a serious increase in paper waste and pollution."
Eric Goldstein, NYC Environment Director for the NRDC, told us last year, "It's a flawed solution. Experience elsewhere has shown that a simple ban on plastic bags leads to much greater use of paper bags—or thicker plastic bags—and doesn’t accomplish the primary objective of triggering a shift to reusables."
Goldstein suggested other more "sophisticated" ways to discourage plastic bag use, pointing out how California bans plastic bags and charges a fee for recycled paper bags—a year later, an LA Times editorial confirmed "the world didn't end"—and Chicago's model, which is involves charging fees for using either plastic or paper bags, which reportedly reduced plastic bag usage by 42%.
The bottle bill expansion would allow more types of containers to be redeemed for five-cents; the governor's press release mentioned "sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee" and that there would be "exceptions for bottles containing dairy milk, milk substitutes, infant formula, syrups and flavorings, medical prescriptions and dietary supplements." The state Department of Environmental Conservation will conduct a study, which will also include whether it will be possible to include wine and liquor bottles to the bill.
New York's bottle bill, which took effect under Governor Mario Cuomo in 1983, currently includes beer, carbonated soft drinks and mineral water. The proposed expansion would cover an estimated 1.4 billion additional plastic containers sold in New York, the Buffalo News reports.
Regarding the bottle expansion bill, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Riverkeeper said, "[T]he Governor’s proposal is well intended and deserves serious consideration. We understand the benefits, but want to be sure this approach will not harm municipal recycling programs around the state."