39° Good Afternoon
39° Good Afternoon

NYC should carry on with its own ban on plastic bags

New York City's first effort to reduce use

New York City's first effort to reduce use of plastic shopping bags was rejected by the State Legislature and the governor. Photo Credit: Newsday file

Once again, a New York City official says it’s time to do the right thing about plastic bags: Get rid of them.

This round, it’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, who on Sunday said in an unequivocal Twitter message that, “We need to ban plastic bags — the time for debate on this is over.”

He’s right. Residents across the state use billions of the supermarket-style bags every year. Even if they are used more than once, the bags eventually become a nuisance by gumming up recycling machinery in NYC, littering our roads and waterways and endangering wildlife. There are more environmentally friendly options to carry our groceries, and relatively painless ways to transition away from this kind of plastic.

The city tried in 2016, when the New York City Council passed a smart 5-cent bag fee to reduce use by nudging customers without taxing store owners. But the State Legislature last year passed legislation to block the city’s action, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it.

Cuomo explained that he wants a “statewide solution.” He set up a task force to study the issue and propose a plan. Well, the task force came back in January with a lot of hemming and hawing but no specific recommendations. That’s where things stand today, mostly stalled.

Good for de Blasio for elevating the issue again, this time with a bag ban as opposed to a fee. Now the work gets harder. A ban will likely be more difficult to sell in the City Council this time; the less onerous fee passed only narrowly in 2016. And state lawmakers could (and some likely will) try to stop it again using the state’s ability to block many city actions. But the campaign to get rid of the bags must continue.

After de Blasio’s remarks, Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said on Monday that a ban is “one of the options we’re reviewing.”

That’s a nice thought, but the city shouldn’t wait while the bag issue tosses aimlessly in the wind up north. Let the state follow NYC’s lead.


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