Local Pols Blast Bag Fee Passed By City Council

Source: katerha via flickr
Source: katerha via flickr

The City Council on Thursday narrowly passed a controversial shopping bag fee aimed at curbing the use of disposable grocery bags in favor of reusable, environmentally-friendly materials.

Proponents of the bill, which passed 28-20, say it will rein in the ubiquitous use of shopping bags — that pile every year in landfills  — and bring the New York in line with similar laws passed in cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C.. The law, expected to go into effect in October, imposes a five-cent fee on paper and plastic shopping bags. There are some exceptions: The fee does not apply to bags used by pharmacies, produce and liquor bottles. Soup kitchens and groceries bought with food stamps are also exempt.

However, the fee drew almost universal scorn from southern Brooklyn lawmakers, who said it would disproportionally impact low-income and elderly New Yorkers who can’t afford to shell out a nickel for every grocery bag.

“It adds up,” said City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who voted against the fee. “Put away a nickel or a quarter everyday and see how much you have at the end of the year. People are already having a hard time making ends meet.”

Deutsch said he supports measures to protect the environment, but that the law should be written to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, not punish those who don’t.

Councilman Mark Treyger agreed, calling the fee “a tale of two environmental policies” because high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods already reward customers who bring reusable bags.

“Unfortunately, we do not have a Whole Foods in our community. One can safely assume which areas have Whole Foods stores and which don’t. For residents of Southern Brooklyn, this is not an equitable solution,” he said in a statement.

There’s still hope that plastic grocery bags won’t go the way of the subway token. State Senator Simcha Felder, who as a councilman voted against a six-cent bag fee touted by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has introduced a bill to prohibit municipalities from setting bag fees, the New York Times reports.

Felder told the Times the fees are “nothing less than a tax on the poor and the middle class — the most disadvantaged people.”

Lawmakers who voted against the bill also noted the fee goes directly into the pockets of retailers, rather than being collected by the city and used for public benefit.

Writing in the Yeshiva World News, Councilman David Greenfield said “the bag tax now under consideration in New York is, by design, a massive giveaway by politicians to wealthy business owners.”

“While five cents for a plastic bag may not sound like much to the types of people who are supporting this legislation, the fact is that there are many families in New York for whom every nickel counts,” he wrote.

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  1. I’m still unsure of how this bill works. Do you get charged five cents for each bag used? Or is it a surcharge added to your bill for the whole order? If I have a $300 order that requires, say, 50 bags, I’m going to pay $2.50 for those bags. Do we have to pay double when a store “double bags”? If they do, there’s going to be problems in grocery stores. What about if, like me, people return the bags for recycling…are we getting anything back? This law is flawed in so many ways…AND the city isn’t even making money off it? Ridiculous

  2. Corruption and arrogance from crooks in suits to criminals in uniforms…no end in the sight

  3. As a former Brighton/Sheepshead resident who now lives in London, England, charging 5 pence for bags made many here very upset, but now has reduced bag waste by 80% and people have gotten used to carrying bags with them. I bought sturdy lightweight bags that fold up and close with a snap – they fit easily in my pocket or handbag. The supermarkets here sell what they call “lifelong bags”. they are very strong bags that cost 10 pence. If the bag gets broken or torn, just bring it in for a free replacement. so your initial 10 pence is your only investment, you can get a new bag any time your old one breaks. The streets are much cleaner with less plastic bags floating around. The 5 pence rule applies to retailers who have 250 or more employees. – small independent shops don’t have to charge for bags. I hope your new 5 cent rule works out like it did over here – people are happy with it now.

  4. Instead of punishing people for using plastic bags, reward people for bringing their own bags, and encourage people to send the plastic bags to companies that can use them to upcycle to other products.

  5. What’s the big deal? Don’t want to pay for bags – bring your own bags and re-use them. They should have had this law years ago. I personally hate the amount of waste this generates, and all the flying bags on the streets and beaches, especially when they stick to the exhaust pipe on the car…

  6. Punishing? Reward? No. This has nothing to do with either and it’s not personal. No one is entitled to anything as a general rule, now your being asked to either pay for something you want. Clearly you are being encouraged to use a bag in a more ecological manner. If you need to classify things, think of it as a good thing that you are personally doing to save the planet. Self rewarding at it’s finest.

  7. They tried that over here in the UK, rewarding those that brought their own bags, but it didn’t work. People are lazy & it is so convenient to be given bags whenever you shop. So, as above, they made the 5 pence bag a law. People almost rioted at first. They also started taking the supermarket’s carry baskets out to their cars (the stores had to attach security onto all the baskets to stop this). But now people bring their own bags & they got used to it.

  8. you just have no clue as to how many bags are used….heck i’d be happy with just a penny for every bag…..trust me at 5c, plenty of $ for the city.

  9. America, I hope you catch on that the 5 cent fee is collected and kept by the store and City get nothing.

  10. Councilman Brad Lander pushed for this bill so when he goes up for re-election, let the consumer who will be suffering through this nuisance tax do the right thing: Vote Lander out of office next year. I am tired of all this political correctness being shoved down our throats; if Lander and his crowd want to do something about the environment, then give up your city vehicle and take public transit. Add more buses so people don’t drive their cars, that is the few of us who can still afford one with the high cost of insurance in Brooklyn and the lack of street parking which forces us to rent out a driveway space at $200/month.

    What Lander doesn’t want to realize is that most shoppers do re-use their plastic shopping bag; rather it is those who take out food and eat it outside their apartments are the ones which leave their white plastic bags to blow around the streets – just observe taxi and livery drivers who eat in their cars.

    For those who don’t live in Lander’s Boro Park/Kessington/Windsor Terrace/Park Slope district, perhaps Councilman Jumaane Williams, who supported Lander’s legislation, also be voted out of office.

    Let’s hope that Mayor DeBlasio will the ramifications
    and hardship of the majority of New Yorkers who daily will be subjected
    with what amounts to another nuisance tax/fee. Let’s hope Mayor
    DeBlasio has the guts and do the right thing by vetoing this bill.

  11. DeBlasio will not veto this bill. Park Slope is in his blood. He’s out of touch with southern Brooklyn and most of the neighborhoods in the outer boroughs for that matter.

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