The NY State Senate placed a city-wide ban on single-use plastic bags effective March 1st, 2020. While this state legislation has been in discussion for years, only last year on March 23rd, 2019, were legislators able to push this ban. The only plastic bags excluded from this ban are takeout bags and garbage bags.
Paper bags will still be allowed, however, counties can choose to impose a 5-cent tax on single-use paper bags. This push to ban these single-use bags have been coming for a while, for the sake of decreasing wildlife death, reducing pollution in our waterways, and increasing environmental conservation overall.
Back in 2017, Governor Cuomo actually vetoed a law that would’ve taxed New Yorkers with a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic bags. Now with plastic bags banned, environmentalists have gotten what they’ve looked for.
Many environmentalists don’t think it’s enough. Yes, plastic bags are a problem because they’re often littered. They’re also hard to decompose and costs a lot of money to recycle, which comes from the pockets of New York taxpayers.
While paper bags sound like a better alternative since it’s made out of trees, it ironically causes harm due to its production. To create paper bags, factories require lots of energy, which causes a lot of air pollution due to carbon emissions from the factory producing these paper bags.
According to Britain’s Environment Agency, the production of 3 regular single-use plastic bags use the same amount of energy that it’d take to make one regular paper bag. In simpler terms, paper bags are considerably worse for the environment.
Regardless, some say that it’s good to have the paper bag alternative. According to Narma Jamil, an environmental activist and student at Thomas A. Edison CTE High School, it’s not that big of an issue as “nobody is going to pay 5 cents per bag to buy something at the grocery store since it’d the cents would accumulate money anyways.”
For instance, when Long Island’s Suffolk County taxed plastic bags for 5 cents in January 2018, grocery stores reported that people used their plastic bags 80% less than when the tax was not imposed. Those who are willing to pay the fee, however, will benefit others since the money from the 5-cent tax fee on paper bags in NYC will be used to buy and give reusable bags for people of low income due to the new legislation.
Though it may seem alright, some store owners, especially grocery store owners, are worried that when March comes around and people don’t yet own a reusable bag, they won’t be willing to pay the 5-cent fee nor will be willing to spend money on a reusable bag and will leave without buying anything. While it’s too soon to know whether this effect may be true, storeowners are left worrisome as their main source of income may falter due to a possible decrease in customers.
Outside a supermarket, stands Noushin Anika, an Edison student, coming out with no plastic nor paper bag, rather with a bright orange reusable bag full of groceries. “I carry my bag around with me everywhere so I’d just put my items in my [school] bag as opposed to buying a paper bag for 5 cents,” she began. “Just banning plastic bags won’t do much. Packaging for fruits and vegetables at supermarkets has more plastic content compared to a plastic bag, so it would be nicer if they banned smaller things, like those.”
Edison teacher, Mrs. De Los Angeles, organized the sale of reusable totes for the Edison. “The Eco Engaged Club wanted to find a way to advertise and promote their club to encourage membership that represented what we stood for but also provide something to the school community that was functional. As we brainstormed, we realized tote bags would be the perfect choice because of the impending plastic bag ban in NYC. They’re cute, they’re functional, they’re eco-friendly!”