New York State has become the third US state after Hawaii and California to ban single-use plastic bags. New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed the ban into law on April 22, Earth Day, as part of the FY 2020 Budget for the state. The ban will come into force in March next year.
The East Coast state has a population of 19.54 million people but uses 23 billion plastic bags every year. That’s almost 1,200 bags per person per year. Given that half of them end up in landfills and waterways around the city, the ban will make a significant impact.
The new legislation clearly hopes that consumers make a switch to cloth and canvas bags, but paper bags will also still be available. In terms of the ban, there is an option for counties and cities to opt-in to a 5-cent fee on paper bags. The revenue of that will be reinvested into the community with 40 percent of it to be used to provide reusable bags for people on a low and fixed income, and the remaining 60 percent to support programs which are part of the state's Environmental Protection Fund.
The ban is a result of the analysis of the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force that Governor Cuomo started in March 2017. Over the last two years, it's looked at the problem in its entirety and developed the solutions to tackle this particular single-use plastic problem. Some of the solutions are now implemented in the ban.
“It is important to reduce waste regardless of where it comes from, and despite efforts by New York State to require recycling of these single-use plastic bags by certain stores, the problems have persisted." the introduction to the report states.
Pointedly, it continues: "Absent any federal action or leadership on this issue, it is time for New York State to take more decisive action to expand our efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags by consumers and keep as much plastic as possible from the waste stream."
California was the first state to ban plastic bags back in 2014. It was followed a year later by Oahu, and then other localities across Hawaii, making a de facto state-wide ban. At least 32 countries around the world have banned plastic bags so far. The European Union passed legislation in November 2013 to discourage the use of lightweight plastic bags, and every single-use plastic bag product will be banned by 2021.