Cuomo Proposes Statewide Plastic Bag Ban in New York

In this Sept. 20, 2016, file photo, women walk with plastic bags through Chinatown in San Francisco. California was the first state to enact a staetwide ban on plastic bags.

In this Sept. 20, 2016, file photo, women walk with plastic bags through Chinatown in San Francisco. California was the first state to enact a staetwide ban on plastic bags. AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

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The state would join California in implementing such a ban if it is enacted.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is renewing his call for a statewide ban on the single-use plastic bags that retailers, grocers and other stores commonly provide to customers, the governor’s office said Sunday.

Cuomo, a Democrat re-elected to a third term in November, backed a similar proposal last year and says it will help protect the environment. If he is successful getting legislators to approve the policy this time around, New York would become the second state to outlaw single-use plastic bags. Voters in California gave their blessing to a prohibition there in 2016.

Hawaii also has a de facto ban because its most populous counties prohibit non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout, according to information about bag policies maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures that was last updated in May.

Other local governments around the U.S. have implemented such restrictions as well.

For example, in Boston a prohibition on plastic bags went into effect in mid-December. A number of cities in Washington state have also banned the bags, including Seattle, and Democratic state lawmakers there have indicated that they want to usher in a statewide ban.

It’s not unusual for the laws to include exceptions for bags used for items like meat, bulk goods, newspapers, or dry cleaning. The bag bill Cuomo backed last year included carve-outs like these.

Plastic bag policies can be controversial.

The Texas state Supreme Court last June ruled that Laredo violated state law with its plastic bag restrictions. The court decision undermined similar local policies elsewhere in the state.

NCSL says that in 2017-2018 state legislative sessions at least 73 bills were introduced that had to do with regulating plastic bags in retail, many proposing fees or bans.

But the bulk of the recent enacted legislation in this area has dealt with preemption of local governments, the group notes.

Plastic waste is notorious for taking decades, even centuries, to degrade.

A 2017 article in Science Advances estimates that if current trends continue, there will be about 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.

This debris is a well documented threat to wildlife, and poses possible health risks to humans as well.

Cuomo about two years ago blocked a New York City law to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags, opting instead to form a plastic bag task force.

His latest proposal will be included in his budget package, which he is slated to discuss in a speech on Tuesday.

The budget package will also include a proposal to make most non-alcoholic drink containers eligible for 5 cent redemption, according to Sunday’s announcement.

After last year’s elections, Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature in New York.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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