NYC closer to adopting 5 cent paper bag fee

The Department of Sanitation backs the bill requiring the nickel charge, which heads to the full City Council for consideration.

The plans to charge New Yorkers a nickel for every paper bag they get at stores passed its first hurdle Wednesday.

City Council’s Sanitation Committee moved a bill, drafted by council members Margaret Chin and Brad Lander and backed by the de Blasio administration, to the full council for approval. The council members and environmental advocates said the fee, coupled with the state’s ban on plastic bags that goes into effect next year, will help push people to use reusable bags when they shop. 

"As a city, we need to take our zero waste goals seriously," said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, the chairman of the Sanitation Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. 

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who cast the committee’s lone vote against the bill, said that the proposed regulation would cause serious financial and logistical problems for some New Yorkers who can’t carry nondisposable bags all of the time. 

"It is really a hardship to walk with a dozen reusable bags in their pocket," he said.

As part of the state’s ban on plastic bags, each New York municipality can opt into a 5 cent fee on paper bags that would go toward the state environmental protection fund and each locality’s discretionary funds. Under Chin and Lander’s bill, the city’s 2 cent per bag share of the fee would be used to pay for free reusable bags for New Yorkers.

The state’s plastic bag ban goes into effect in March. 

Representatives from the Department of Sanitation said Wednesday that they support the legislation, believing it will reduce the amount of discarded paper. 

"This bill not only encourages bag reduction but also promotes responsible reuse to achieve our goal of diverting materials from the city’s waste stream and reaching zero waste," Bridget Anderson, deputy sanitation commissioner, said in her testimony. 

The bill will go before the full council during its next stated hearing on Thursday.

Ivan Pereira