City councilman proposes plastic bag fee

Sandra Bookman reporting
March 25, 2014 3:29:17 PM PDT
New Yorkers use an estimated five billion single-use plastic bags a year.

Stand on any street corner in any borough and it's clear, plastic bags are the go to accessory for millions of New Yorkers every day.

But a group of New York City Council members is leading the charge to change that.

"These single use plastic bags are just bad news for New York City," New York City Councilman Brad Lander said.

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander points to the bags littering tree tops, clogging up storm drains, and even gumming up the works at recycling plants.

Those are big reasons why he and 18 others are sponsoring a bill that would require retailers to charge 10 cents for both plastic and paper bags at checkout.

"What we found in city after city around the country is that these relatively modest charges reduce plastic bag waste 60, 70, 80, even 90%," Lander said.

Recognizing the environmental advantages, some New Yorkers have, in fact, already embraced "the bring your own bag" trend.

"I always carry my own cloth bag, so yeah, it seems reasonable," said Ruth Callahan, an Upper West Side resident.

For others however, being asked to pay for something you've always gotten for free is pushing it.

"If you purchase goods I think they should supply some sort of form of bag for you to carry your goods in," said Barbara Tinglin, an East Flatbush resident.

Councilman Lander believes, and other agree perhaps reluctantly, the bill works precisely because many people "won't" want to pay extra for paper or plastic so they will start carrying their own reusable bags.

"I think if you had to pay for bags, you'd definitely use less. So yeah, although I'd rather not pay, I'd rather get it for free," said Barry Zungrie, an Upper West Side resident.

The proposal will be introduced to the full City Council Wednesday.

The proposal will still have to go through committee and public hearings before a vote is taken.