Paper bags could cost NYC shoppers 5 cents after plastic is banned

Paper bags could cost NYC shoppers 5 cents after plastic is banned

Councilmembers Brad Lander and Margaret Chin will introduce legislation to help curb single-use bags.

New York City Councilmembers Margaret Chin, left, and Brad Lander, center, announce plans to introduce a bill to charge shoppers five cents per paper bag.
New York City Councilmembers Margaret Chin, left, and Brad Lander, center, announce plans to introduce a bill to charge shoppers five cents per paper bag. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

The State Legislature has voted to remove plastic bags from the Empire State, and now a group of City Council members is setting its sights on the bags’ paper counterparts.

City Council members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin announced Tuesday they will introduce legislation that would institute a 5 cent fee on paper bags once the state initiates its ban on plastic bags next March. As part of the state budget agreement reached this week, municipalities have the option of instituting the paper bag surcharge, with the money going toward the state environmental protection fund and discretionary funds for each district.

Lander, who introduced a similar bill for plastic bags six years ago, said the fee would go a long way in reshaping the habits of shoppers.

"We don’t just want to get rid of plastic bags, we want to get rid of single-use bags altogether," he said at a news conference Tuesday.

Although paper bags are more easily recycled than plastic, Lander said more of them have been ending up in landfills and cost the city over $12 million a year in sanitation costs. The legislation would use the city’s 2 cent revenue from the fee to pay for reusable bags for the public. 

Environmental groups, such as the New York League of Conservation Voters, say the fee combined with the plastic ban would show New Yorkers the real costs of the disposable bags.

"We all need to get into the habit of bringing our bags," said NYLCV president Julie Tighe.

Several Council members have voiced support for the bill, including Councilman Antonio Reynoso who chairs the sanitation committee.

"We need to make sure we are making incremental progress for the environment," he said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday that he had not seen the legislation, but was open to the idea of a fee helping pay for reusable bags for New Yorkers.

"We have to get away from paper bags as quickly as possible. I think this may be one of the ways to do it," de Blasio said. 

(With Alison Fox) 

Ivan Pereira