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New York City Council Adopts Environmental Fee on Paper Bags

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In a move it says is meant to throttle down on waste, litter and pollution, the New York City Council has adopted legislation that would place a five-cent fee on paper carryout bags distributed at supermarkets and other retail outlets in the nation’s largest city.

By a vote of 38 to 9, the Council adopted the legislation as a complement to the recently enacted New York State ban on carryout bags made of plastic. Taken together, the state ban on plastic bags and the city’s five-cent fee on paper bags represent one of the most significant waste reduction initiatives undertaken here in years.

The City Council legislation and the new state law are expected to cut the number of single-use carryout bags that are tossed into the garbage or end up as street litter or waterway pollution by billions of bags a year and encourage shoppers to utilize reusable bags instead. According to the City Council, about 10 billion plastic bags are used in New York City annually, and the bills main sponsorsóCouncil members Margaret Chin and Brad Landerórightly feared that if the city didn’t act, the state’s ban on plastic bags would simply trigger a massive shift at retail outlets from plastic to paper carryout bags.

The proceeds from the paper bag fee are to be divided between the state and the city. Three of every five cents will be deposited in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and the remainder will go to the purchase of reusable carryout bags for city residents, with priority given to distribution in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

If the legislation is signed by Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who has previously expressed his support, the fee would take effect beginning March 1, 2020.

Source: National Resource Defense Council blog post by Eric Goldstein


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