Southern Brooklyn

City Council Considering Charge On Plastic Bags

Source: katerha via flickr
Source: katerha via flickr

The City Council is planning to introduce legislation that would charge consumers 10 cents at grocery and retail stores for plastic bags if they don’t bring their own reusable bags to checkout lines. Politicker is reporting that the proposed legislation, which is aimed at reducing waste, will come to a vote on Thursday (Corrected: See below)

If customers don’t bring their own bags to stores, they will be hit with a dime surcharge that the stores will get to keep. Politicker noted that proponents of the bill have big numbers to back their insistence on the measure as well as the difference between this bill and a similar tax proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that went unsupported by the Council:

According to the bill’s proponents, New Yorkers use approximately 5.2 billion plastic bags per year–the vast majority of which are not recycled. The city also spends an estimated $10 million a year to transport those 100,000 tons of plastic bags to landfills each year, they said.

Mayor Bloomberg had previously proposed a similar piece of legislation that would have imposed a 6 cent tax on retailers distributing plastic bags–a policy proposal that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn did not support. But Mr. [Brad] Lander made a clear distinction today between the two pieces of legislation.

“What the mayor was actually proposing was a tax,” he said. “There are some legal questions there about whether the city actually has the power to do that or whether that takes action in Albany.”

The new proposed piece of legislation would not require this oversight from the State Legislature, but would provide the same environmentally-positive impact, Mr. Lander explained.

Part of the legislation would also include fines for stores that don’t follow the new rules, and will provide distribution of the reusable bags to lower income neighborhoods:

The bill also specifies that grocery and retail stores will be precluded from charging the fee until people are given the chance to take advantage of the citywide bag giveaways.

“We’re going to target the giveaway in lower-income neighborhoods. I think we’d actually like to do a meaningful amount of that through the grocery stores,” Mr. Lander explained.

Restaurants would be exempt from the rule and stores that break the rules twice would be slapped with $250 fines.

The charging for bags practice is already in place right here in Southern Brooklyn at the new Aldi Foodmarket (3785 Nostrand Avenue). Politicker also pointed out that similar legislation is present in other cities, including San Francisco and Washington D.C.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, which is a real lobbying group that represents bag manufacturers, unsurprisingly came out against the proposed legislation:

“New York City residents already pay among the highest taxes in the nation. A 10-cent per bag tax would be a detriment to hardworking families and businesses trying to make ends meet,” said the group’s chair, Mark Daniels. “The proponents of this bill are misinformed and largely rely on science that has been hijacked by environmental activists. A grocery bag tax pushes shoppers toward less sustainable options, like reusable bags, which cannot be recycled, are made from foreign oil and imported at a rate of 500 million annually.”

“If lawmakers are interested in protecting the environment, they should consider the facts and concentrate on meaningful legislation to boost proper reuse and disposal of grocery bags,” he said.

The question remains if the City Council bends to the will of America’s powerful bagging interests.

CORRECTION (8/22/13 10:42 a.m.): The previous version of this article suggested that there would be a vote today. The legislation is solely being introduced today and will have a hearing at a later date, possibly followed by a vote.

Comment policy


  1. You want to charge me for a bag to carry my groceries in that I have to pay for with my hard earned money? Food prices are high enough and items keep shrinking and getting crapped down. Solution: You better give me a discount of 10 cents on the products I buy from your store for each bag I need to make up for the cost. One of those reusable bags should be free for me to take. Otherwise, I should have the right to take the shopping cart or basket home with me. Stores and the city need to understand we are not never ending wallets.

  2. 1) This won’t stop them ending up in trees. Assholes will be assholes whether they pay that 10 cents or not.

    2) What do you think us law abiding citizens who pick up after our dogs use to do that? So great, now instead of using what we get for “free” we’ll wind up buying those bags that will still end up in the landfills.

    3) Many of us also have cleverly designed bag holders under our kitchen sinks that hold these bags and are used for garbage. So again, the plastic bags will now be something that we have to buy and will still end up in landfills.

    I hate seeing plastic bags in trees as much as anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist. If there’s going to be a surcharge, the proceeds should be spent on development of a biodegradable bag that is as water tight and strong as these plastic grocery bags.

  3. “If there’s going to be a surcharge, the proceeds should be spent on development of a biodegradable bag that is as water tight and strong as these plastic grocery bags.”

    I like that idea! Of course, it would also have to be roughly as cheap as plastic bags currently are, which is why businesses no longer use paper bags.

  4. Yes, they want to charge. But, here’s another problem. They do end up in landfills if used as a garbage bag. They did not think this one out. You will then be buying garbage bags instead of using the store bag. This also presents another problem. If you have not noticed, they are made with corn starch to help them degrade. This means that instead of one bag degrading you have a lot of little pieces of plastic instead. So, it makes no difference. You pay at some of the stores anyway and I use them for different purposes. That is the sincerest form of recycling.

  5. R&D -> market -> usage -> widespread usage -> cheap.

    Works that way much of the time. Lots of motivation for it to be true here, not the least of which would be the good PR.

    One can only hope (and write/call/fax Lew Fidler)

  6. Buy reusable bags and leave them in the car. I have 3 of them. Also when you go shopping for veggies and fruits take 5 extra plastic bags and use those for the doggy doo doo.
    edit: Do it for the children.

  7. Have to hand it to the politicians they never run out of ideas to wring every last cent they can out of the lower and ( middle class??? )

  8. You mean steal 5 extra plastic bags? And how are these plastic bags more acceptable than the plastic bags I don’t have to steal?

  9. Steal, house, rob, pinch, swipe, whatever you want to call it. Who said anything about it being acceptable? You know whats unacceptable, the government wanting to regulate every aspect of our lives. From how we talk, how we drive/travel, how we shop, how we protect ourselves, what we eat and on and on. Are you really concerned about a few plastic bags? Next time i need to buy 5 tomatoes i will just put them in individual bags instead.

  10. “Are you really concerned about a few plastic bags? Next time I need to buy 5 tomatoes I will just put them in individual bags”

    Which is not a selfish behavior that drives the price of groceries up for everyone. Nor is it obnoxiously wasteful. Resources are ours to waste as we see fit and the world be damned. And the government has some nerve trying to see to it that for the greater good people can’t text while driving or drink a liter of vodka before getting behind the wheel or put garbage anywhere they damn please or prevent any selfish, harmful, stupid behavior at all.

  11. The point is that charging people for plastic bags will not stop plastic bags from being used. The whole point to this is trying to get people to not use them and it wont help. People buy plastic bags at the pet store to pick up poop (plastic being used). People getting plastic bags from grocery store to pick up poop (plastic being used). If you are going to go this way then get rid of plastic all together and sell paper bags for 10 cents that can be reused by the shopper. This is my point about the govt. getting involved just for the sake of pretending to do something. Driving drunk and dumping garbage are some silly examples and dont get what they have to do with anything.

  12. It was you who posted a tirade about the government saying how we can talk, drive, shop, eat. In the context of your tirade my examples are not even remotely silly and speak directly to your tirade and so what I don’t get is how you don’t see that.

    And my original comment, made two hours before yours, made effectively the same point about the use of plastic bags. Did you miss it?

  13. Actually i did miss it. So it seems that we are pretty much on the same page. I dont get why you would attack what i said. As for my “tirade” drunk driving is obviously bad but i was talking about stop and frisk/tsa (travel), police checkpoints/tsa (driving), salt/fat/sugar control (shopping/eating), guns (protection). You dont think there is over reach in any of those categories?

  14. A lot of us don’t have pets. So we don’t use the plastic bags for pet litter. Instead, we are filling up other plastic bags with these bags.

    Our resources are diminishing. We are extracting oil from dirt. Luckily my time is a lot shorter than yours, so you will have to deal with the mess these excesses have created. I wish you luck.

  15. Yes there is some over reach. But there is also hysterical hype about what is/is not being done. Guns for example. How a ban on assault weapons is taking away someone’s right to protect themselves is beyond me. If anyone needs more than a rifle and/or pistol to protect themselves then they might just as well take one of their weapons and blow their brains out because living in a world where you need an AK47 to protect yourself is just too much sick shit for me and no I don’t think having to register a gun is any more oppressive than having to register a car. TSA/stop and frisk – don’t forget that there are citizens who support this crap also and they vote and elect the loons that pass these laws. If we had an education system that was worth anything and taught people to think we might not be having the government stepping in later to try to control the (bad) decisions people wind up making about what they eat, drink or waste their hard earned pay on.

    My problem with your post was that it sounded like you were advocating that taking extra bags for fruits/veggies would solve the resulting problem of people now having to pay for what they’re going to use no matter what nonsensical “surcharge” or other “solution” this law comes up with while not solving the problem of all these bags going into landfills.

    Anyway, I expect others are getting sick of this chain so I’m done. Good talking to you.

  16. My very first post was a little sarcastic. Im sure Ned and others get a kick out of these. You should educate yourself about firearms before you say someone should kill themselves. The AKs you see in movies and the ones that are sold here are completely different and are classified as just rifles/long guns. There is no such thing as an “assault rifle”, its a made up lie to scare people. Like you said all you need is a rifle and a handgun, im good with that. If you are good with registration of guns like cars how about being able to travel with that firearm like you can with a car? Everywhere. At 16 you get a permit, take a class, pass a skills test, get a license and can carry anywhere. School, church, store, post office, bank, sporting events. Hows that sound? Should be good considering this is America and we are innocent until proven guilty of something.

  17. I sometimes bring my own bag. Shame on you for not calling your good deed to their robotic attention, and then nicely asking them to bag your grocies in your cloth tote. You can ask nicely, cant you?

  18. This is feel good legislation. Most of us re-use the plastic bags for garbage, dog poop or a variety of tasks. If this bill goes thru, all it really means is that I will have to buy trash bags and pay Hefty rather than use what my supermarket gives now for free. Not a good idea.

  19. This is really the last one.

    Does that happen now? Taking a class, passing a skills test? Of course not. And owners of banks, sports arenas, other private businesses, shouldn’t they have the right to say whether people carrying guns are welcome? Hell you can’t bring your dog into any of the places you mentioned. I’ve driven a car for more years than I’m going to admit to here and have never had an accident yet I am required to have insurance in case I do. Why is that impossible to require of gun owners? Because of the hysteria of gun owners’ perceived threat to their 2nd amendment right.

    I don’t go to or watch movies where there’s more blowing people to smithereens than plot so I really don’t care how accurately movie guns represent real guns. I know how lots of people can get killed in a very short time from real life not the movies. That’s all I need to know.

  20. It is a very business and customers unfriendly law. It will not only increase prices but also increase shoplifting. It reminds me my childhood in USSR where people washed bags. Now in Russia and Ukraine they charge for bags and people find every possible way to avoid such charges. I am sick and tired to see these laws done on behalf of people on people’s expense.

  21. You dont need insurance to protect yourself. The firearm is the insurance. Sure privately owned businesses can deny people their constitutional rights. Just go somewhere else. Why dont you do some research on how many cars there are in this country as well as guns. Then look up how many people die in cars compared to firearm homicides. You dont have to respond just look into it for your own education. You can start here Maybe next time the subject comes up you can make an educated and realistic argument.

  22. Every solution is to take money out of the taxpayers’ pockets. And into theirs (the politicians), as recent revelations show.

  23. It is unrealistic to expect people getting off the subway from work to have reusable bags with them..or just waliking around the neighborhood

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