Does the New York Plastic Bag Ban Go Far Enough?

For years, environmental advocates have been calling on the mayor, governor, and legislators to implement a plastic bag tax in New York. In 2017, Governor Cuomo voted down the proposal to impose a plastic bag tax in the state, but it seems that times have changed. With China refusing to take the US and other countries’ trash and recyclables, we are re-evaluating what to do with our waste, and whether our infrastructure is up to par with the volume of trash we produce.

This week, NY legislators announced that they will be implementing a plastic bag ban in NYS starting in 2020! This is a big victory for the champions of the #BeatPlasticPollution movement, as marine life and ecosystems have been heavily affected by these everlasting, but intended-for-single-use inventions.

But is this enough?

Part of this legislation will have an opt-in bag tax on paper bags. Some critics have mentioned that although well-intentioned, this optional tax does not go far enough to address single-use items. People could transition from plastic bags to paper bags because that is what’s available, and pay the fee for these bags, but it would not solve the waste production problem our country has. In NYC alone, we produce 3.1 million tons of trash per year. If these paper bags are soiled, thrown in the regular trash, or thrown in with other recyclables, we are not making much of a difference to reduce our waste. A better alternative would have been to either make the bag tax an opt-out option, or make it mandatory, something that had been implemented in numerous cities across the US [for plastic bags].

Other concerned individuals mention that by banning plastic bags, we are stopping the production of this product, but risk increasing the production of paper bags (and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation that would go into the process of keeping supply up with demand).

So what is a viable solution?

It’s relatively simple. Bring your own bag! The zero waste movement has been garnering attention all over the world, and more and more people I see in NYC carry totes and reusable bags, so I am hopeful that we can transition into a plastic bag-free NYS and NYC and not become dependent on paper bags as a substitute.