New York State banned most plastic bags in April of this year, a great first step towards reducing plastic bag litter in New York. But the legislation had a serious flaw; it did nothing to incentivize reusable bags because it did not place a fee on paper bags.
Surfrider has seen legislation similar to New York’s backfire in other parts of the country, as consumers simply switch to using paper bags instead of plastic.For example, after the passage of a simple plastic bag ban in the city of Portland, OR, paper bag usage increased 491%.
Paper bags, while less directly harmful to marine life, have many negative environmental impacts, especially for climate change and environmental justice issues. They are also substantially more expensive than single-use plastic bags, leading to increased expenses for businesses, which feel like they must provide free paper bags to customers.
A five-cent fee on paper bags, combined with the ban on plastic bags, already has a track record of success on Long Island.Only four months after similar legislation in Suffolk County took effect in 2017, 70% of the public was bringing their own bag. Grocery stores in Long Beach NY, where the five cent fee on bags has been in effect for almost two years, report a 90% reduction in bag usage.
As Long Islanders, the health of our air, waterways, and fisheries is critical to our local economy and our way of life. Nassau County can reduce the wasteful pollution from single use bags, and get shoppers to switch to reusable bags, by completing what New York State started and passing a five-cent fee on paper bags.