Supporters Of Plastic Bag Fee Fighting Back Against Effort To Reverse It

Source: katerha via flickr
Source: katerha via flickr

Environmental advocates are fighting back against a Brooklyn State Senator’s efforts to reverse a controversial fee aimed at curbing the use of disposable grocery bags in favor of more environmentally-friendly, reusable alternatives.

State Senator Simcha Felder, who represents communities in South Brooklyn, has introduced legislation which would reverse an about to go into effect 5-cent fee on plastic and paper bags provided by New York City retailers. Felder’s bill prohibits the “imposition of any tax, fee or local charge on carry out merchandise bags in cities having a population of one million or more.”

Felder’s bill has not yet moved to the senate floor for a vote, but environmental groups fear it could happen shortly. There is a similar bill in the State Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Cusick of Staten Island.

To become law, the bills would have to be passed by both houses of the legislature, and then signed by the Governor.

Proponents of the plastic bag fee, which passed the City Council 28-20 last May, say it will rein in the ubiquitous use of shopping bags — that pile up every year in landfills — and bring New York in line with cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C., which have passed similar legislation. Spearheaded by Council Member Brad Lander, the new five-cent fee on paper and plastic shopping bags is supposed to go into effect on February 15th.

Strictly speaking, the 5-cent fee is not a tax. The money is kept by retailers, and does not go back to the City. After the fee was passed, Senator Felder told The New York Times that it was “nothing less than a tax on the poor and the middle class — the most disadvantaged people.”

New Yorkers purchasing groceries with food stamps or via the WIC program are actually exempt from the fee, as are soup kitchens. The 5-cent charge does not apply to bags obtained from pharmacies, produce and liquor stores.

“Anti-Environment Power Grab”
Council Member Lander described Senator Felder’s bill as a “small-minded, pro-waste, plastic-industry-funded, undemocratic, anti-environment power-grab.”

“With Trump and the GOP Congress rolling back climate protections and bullying cities, it would be shameful for Albany to join them. Don’t they have more important work to do?” Lander asked in a recent statement.

“New York State legislators who care about the environment must defend the right of localities to advance effective, forward-looking environmental policy,” Lander continued.

The fierce debate over the bill exposes broader disagreement regarding how New York City should reduce its production of solid waste. The de Blasio administration has set the highly ambitious goal of sending zero solid waste to landfills by 2030 — only 13 years away.

Every day, roughly 21,000 tons of residential and commercial trash is moved by truck, barge and rail out of New York City. While only a fraction of our overall waste output, plastic bags have become symbolic of the city’s larger struggle with trash.

New Yorkers use 5.2 billion carryout bags per year, the majority of which are not recycled, says Bag It NYC, a coalition of community-based organizations which has supported the fee. The City pays an estimated $10 million to transport 100,000 tons of plastic bags to out-of-state landfills every year, they say.

Unfairly Impacting Low-Income New Yorkers?
Southern Brooklyn lawmakers have led the way in arguing that the plastic bag fee would disproportionately impact low-income and elderly New Yorkers.

In the State Assembly, the effort to reverse the bag fee is supported by Steven Cymbrowitz, Dov Hikind, Peter J. Abbate, William Colton, Jaime Williams, Nicole Malliotakis and Pamela Harris of Southern Brooklyn, along with Walter Mosley of Fort Greene, Erik Dilan of North Brooklyn, Maritza Davila of Bushwick and Charles Barron of East New York.

Council Members Mathieu Eugene (Flatbush) and David Greenfield (Midwood) voted against the bag fee last year. Jumaane Williams (Flatbush) came out in support of the fee — after supporting legislation was amended to require that a study be conducted of its impact on low-income New Yorkers.

Council Member Chaim Deutsch, who represents sections of Midwood, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, 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.

Similarly, Council Member Mark Treyger of Coney Island acknowledged that some higher-end grocery stores, such as Whole Foods, reward customers who use reusable bags, but he maintained that “for residents of Southern Brooklyn, this is not an equitable solution.”

Council Member Lander’s office notes that fees like the one passed by the City Council “have been proven to reduce the consumption of plastic bags by 60% – 90%. Across age, race, religion, and neighborhood…”

Officials from Washington, DC, which has a large low-income population, testified at a New York City Council hearing in 2014 that their five cent bag fee has been successful across all of Washington’s income groups.

The District’s Department of Environment (DDOE) commissioned a survey in 2013 which found that 83 percent of residents and 90 percent of businesses said they either supported the bag fee or had no strong feelings about it. Eight out of ten residents said they had reduced their use of disposable bags because of the fee.

What do you think about the plastic bag fee? How do you feel about the State Senate and Assembly’s efforts to reverse it?

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  1. Shame on our elected officials who support the needs of the plastic packaging industry over the needs of our environment. Anyone can carry an inexpensive, reuseable bag. Labeling the Plastic Bag Bill as a tax on the poor is just a manipulative tactic. Thank you Brad Lander for spearheading this effort. Please people, tell Simcha to put his energy to some better use of the State’s resources.

  2. Lander got it right: “small-minded, pro-waste, plastic-industry-funded, undemocratic, anti-environment power-grab.” Felder clearly is more concerned with his corporate bosses than with the environment that he, and we, and his family depend on. Let’s hope this fee passes overwhelmingly.

  3. I have found that this publication does not like the truth and they will flag you for disagreeing with their point of view.

  4. I can’t stop laughing. I’m reading my co-workers your comment sent to the SJW and were all having a great chuckle. Thanks 🙂

  5. You could use one of the many plastic bags I pick up off the street each and every day. Or you could try being a constructive adult…

  6. Why does the city exempt WIC and food stamp recipients from the law?

    If plastic bags are such an issue, why don’t they issue reusable bags to SNAP recipients and force them to use environmentally friendly solutions as well?

  7. too bad they deleted the death threat from one of Felder’s followers. It really helped to clear up who is behind this.

  8. If the purpose of this tax really is to help the environment, paper bags that have been used for hundreds of years without harming the environment would be exempted. Look who will be making money off this and then you will figure out how this added tax bill got this far.

  9. It wasn’t a death threat, moron. It was a suggestion. You’re so dumb, you can’t even tell the difference.

  10. Unless they ban plastic bag across the board, it isn’t about environment. It is all about finding way to tax us and create another channel to fine business for noncompliance.

  11. Sooo.. The answer to a specific item that ends up in our landfill stream
    and costs the city approx 10 million to have carted and dumped is to
    initiate a fee that will cost city residents over 250 million dollars a
    year (5.2 billion bags at .05 per bag). Here are some points on the
    Aside from the obvious issues (can the state require you to
    pay a vendor a profit for an item and call it a “tax” if the vendor gets
    to keep it… Can a vendor put a tray with dimes out by the register
    and give customers free dimes equal to the number of bags used ..etc..)
    Many of the bags get reused so to call them single use is a lie.
    bags are already recycled but there is nothing preventing the city from
    recycling plastic bags as well (we currently only recycle plastic drink
    As far as landfill product, plastic bags are about the
    most innocuous item we sequester. They do not create any pollution other
    than the bag itself (no runoff or leaching of toxins etc..).
    bag buried is actually sequestered carbon!!! Not only is it sequestered
    but since the plastic is so stable the sequestration in essentially
    permanent (the city should be getting carbon credits for the bags that
    end up in the landfill)

  12. Hi Mr. Chan, disagree with your premise that it is a “tax”. You can skip paying this just by carrying a bag as many do in the 2oo other municipalities in the U.S. that have a rule about this. I don’t have any financial interest in having less bags in the world. I just believe scientists when they tell me bags are bad news.
    But you are right that the money is involved. Look for the trail of money and see who makes the bags in New York City. You will know why Felder wants to keep their supply going.

  13. so you brought in liars from Washington, DC why did you not bring in poor people who pay this fee

    in Washington, DC
    they would have said this hurts them instead you bring in liars

  14. I believe the person who posted this is.

    Why not tax plastic bags from liquor stores and for veggies, as well as for take out foods. Do those plastic bags magically evaporate?

  15. Nathan… you are trying to use semantics to your benefit but the world does not work that way… by your defective logic income tax is not really a tax because you wont owe anything if you never get a job.. The fact that you can alter your behavior and avoid a tax doesn’t not negate it as a tax… in this case it might not be a tax because the money goes to the vendor not the state, it is more akin to price control than a tax…

    BTW, you are not listening to scientists when you state ” I just believe scientists when they tell me bags are bad news.”.. You are listening to politically motivated leftist politicians and activists… It is easy to make a very sound scientific case that burying plastic bags is good for the environment (if you believe in man-made global warming). The plastics that are used in plastic bags is very stable and do not leech toxins but are very high in carbon content.. every bag that is buried is carbon that we are permanently sequestering (NYC should apply for carbon credits!!!!)…

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