'Banning all plastic bags of all thickness is crucial'

Albany /
| 04 Feb 2020 | 12:39

I am writing on behalf of more than 60 organizations regarding the new state ban on plastic bags. We are calling on New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to follow the intent of the law in enforcing the ban.

Chief among our concerns is a provision that would allow thicker plastic bags in New York. Advocates have reviewed the problems with this exception to the ban, and we ask that the DEC fully enforce the ban on all plastic bags – both thin and thick beginning with the March 1, 2020, enactment date.

New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags every year. A significant number of these bags make their way into the environment, causing litter and damaging wildlife within waterways, along streets and in oceans and lakes. Moreover, these bags do not biodegrade – they persist for years.

The New York City Department of Sanitation estimates that it currently collects an average of 1,700 tons of plastic bags per week, costing $12.5 million per year in disposal expenses.

According to Charlie Olver, policy associate for NYPIRG and student at SUNY New Paltz, the ocean receives a garbage truck worth of plastic every single minute – up to 8 million metric tons a year. With alternatives already circulating in the market, using plastic bags has become an unnecessary risk to the environment.

Banning all plastic bags of all thickness is crucial. Judith Enck, former EPA administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics, said state legislators and Gov. Cuomo did the right thing by banning plastic bags in April 2019.

However, the state DEC’s proposed draft regulations that would allow thick plastic bags to be handed out to consumers would be a monumental mistake.

There is still time for the DEC to change that before the law takes effect on March 1.

Plastic bags are plastic bags, period, according to Liz Moran, environmental policy director for NYPIRG. To maintain New York’s status as a climate champion, the DEC must ensure regulations follow the intent of the law.

New York is making a strong statement about valuing our environment, fighting climate change and protecting public health, said Kate Kurera, deputy director for Environmental Advocates of New York. Unfortunately, the proposed DEC regulation weakens the state’s commitment.

Consumers should be prepared to use reusable bags in time for March 1 enactment date.

Max Oppen

Environmental Advocates of New York