A lawsuit against New York's statewide plastic bag ban was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
The ban for single-use plastic bags went into effect on March 1st, but the pandemic delayed enforcement of the environmental measure. At the time, some stores even banned customers from bringing in their own reusable bags. Enforcement began again in mid-June.
A number of groups, including a plastic manufacturer and the Bodega Association, sued earlier this year, claiming the law was "unconstitutional and inconsistent," in addition to causing them financial harm, especially during the pandemic.
State Supreme Court Justice Gerald W. Connolly said that state's ban was legal, but did take issue with the state's exemption that allows retailers to offer thicker plastic bags. Environmental advocates had worried that the carve-out, or "loophole," would encourage stores to make bags of 10-mil thickness (one mil is one-thousandth of an inch; 10 mils is one-hundredth of an inch, or about 10 pieces of paper thick). According to Bloomberg Law, "Connolly... agree[d] that the department went beyond its authority in setting the minimum thickness for acceptable bags at 10 mils, calling the action 'invalid'... California set its minimum thickness at 2.25 mils."
He did write, "It remains, of course, within the province of the Legislature to enact legislation to the extent it seeks to expand the list of 'exempt bags.'"
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is chalking up the overall decision as a win. "The Court's decision is a victory and a vindication of New York State's efforts to end the scourge of single-use plastic bags and a direct rebuke to the plastic bag manufacturers who tried to stop our law," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. "DEC encourages New Yorkers to transition to reusable bags whenever and wherever they shop and to use common-sense precautions to keep reusable bags clean."
Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator under the Obama administration and founder of Beyond Plastics, told the AP, "Once fully implemented, New Yorkers will see the benefits of this law almost immediately with less plastic bag litter in neighborhoods, parks and rivers."