New York lawmakers are close to enacting a sweeping ban on single-use plastic bags in an effort to curb pollution and save denizens from their own worst impulses.
The new proposal could be part of the state’s budget bill, which is expected to pass next week. The initiative already has the support of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who initially proposed the measure last year but failed to get it passed by the then-Republican-controlled state Senate. Democrats won control of the chamber in the last election.
“These bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways,” Cuomo said in a statement to The New York Times. He said the proposal would “protect our natural resources for future generations of New Yorkers.”
The ban, if implemented, would outlaw the use of single-use plastic bags at most stores, but would allow certain industries to continue using them. Restaurants would still be allowed to use bags for takeout and newspapers would still be delivered in them. The proposal would also allow individual counties to opt-in to a 5-cent-per-bag fee for paper bags in an effort to encourage consumers to bring their own reusable totes.
“I think we’re going to look back and wonder why this isn’t something that was commonplace before now,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky told NBC News. “But I’m glad we’re doing it now and leading the way in being one of the first states to do it.”
The state would be the second to get an official bag ban on the books after California passed similar legislation in 2016. Hawaii effectively has a statewide bag ban as well after each of the state’s counties instituted anti-bag policies.
Several other states have taken steps to outlaw other plastic products in recent months. Lawmakers in Hawaii have proposed a pair of bills that would take a hard-line against most plastic in the restaurant industry and a proposal in Maryland could make the region the first in the nation to completely ban polystyrene food containers.
The Associated Press notes that environmental advocates estimate New Yorkers use up to 23 billion plastic bags a year.
This story is part of a series on plastic waste, funded by SC Johnson. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the company.