A new bill announced today on the steps of City Hall aims to rid our fair city of a most foul scourge: plastic bags. Under the proposed legislation, retail and grocery stores would charge consumers at least 10 cents per plastic bag used. Though the same charge would also be levied upon paper bags, the bill's sponsors made it clear today in a press conference that the real target was those flimsy plastic bags we see everywhere.
At the moment, New Yorkers use 5.2 billion carryout bags per year, and the city spends about $10 million annually to transport 100,000 tons of plastic bags to landfills in other states. The bill's architects, including Council Members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin, are hoping the legislation's effects will mirror those seen in other major cities. They cited results seen in Washington, D.C. and LA, noting that those places saw their plastic bag usage decline by 60% and 95% respectively.
Lander and Chin were also joined by members of various environmental and neighborhood groups, including the Citizens Committee For New York City and the New York League of Conservation Voters. Activists were on hand with home-made signs, trumpeting slogans like "10 cents makes sense" and "Only vampires should be this thin and last hundreds of years!" One environmental advocate noted that when his group conducts beach clean ups around the city, about three-quarters of the waste collected is plastic.
This isn't the first time the city has tried to crack down on plastic. Mayor Bloomberg attempted to impose a plastic bag tax back in 2008, but it was struck down by none other than the City Council. "There are a couple of things different this time from last time," Council Member Lander told the crowd. "The mayor was proposing a tax... and there were some legal questions there about whether the city actually had the power to do that." This legislation, he stressed, was not a tax; the 10 cent per bag profit would go to the store, not the city.
The bill, set to be introduced on Thursday, was embraced by the environmental groups. "Who will miss plastic bags once they are gone?" said Colin Beavan, the executive director of the No Impact Project. "No one!" Of course, not everyone agrees: in a statement released today, The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group that represents bag manufacturers, argued that "a grocery bag tax pushes shoppers toward less sustainable options, like reusable bags, which cannot be recycled, are made from foreign oil and imported at a rate of 500 million annually."
But what about the remaining bags? Where will they go? What will they do, with nobody to use them? They'll flutter about, useless and forlorn, until they get stuck somewhere from which they can't escape. Or, they'll end up as the subject of a short film that would make Ricky burn with jealousy: