Beginning March 1, Long Islander shoppers will have one less option when packing their groceries, as a New York State ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect.
The ban would prohibit retailers from giving out plastic carryout bags to customers. State lawmakers hope that this will lead to more residents deciding to bring their own reusable bags and a decrease of plastic waste.
The legislation is a step toward reducing the 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers every year, reducing litter and helping the fight against climate change.
According to a Siena College Research Institute poll conducted after the bill was passed, 62 percent of New Yorkers support the ban compared to 33 percent who don’t.
“We are expecting a successful implementation.”
While plastic bags will no longer be handed out at retailers, paper bags will still be available. In Suffolk County, consumers will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at a checkout. In areas that have the opted into the 5 cent charge, the fee does not apply for SNAP and WIC food benefit recipients.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the ban will have a positive impact in curbing plastic pollution.
“This is a significant accomplishment — Suffolk County needs to be commended for implementing the 5 cent bag fee,” she said. “The state noticed the success of it and it led to this ban.”
Some environmentalists are concerned about some final tweaks in the legislation by the DEC that would allow usage of bags which are thicker and heavier. Esposito said they aren’t concerned about it as it won’t be widely distributed as regular bags and will only be used for packaging of certain foods.
“If for some reason it needs to be tweaked further, we will be a part of those discussions,” she said.
State lawmakers are hoping the ban will increase usage in reusable bags. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a campaign, dubbed BYOBagNY, which has been spearheaded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The agency has been running ads on the ban on TV, radio and social media. In addition, the DEC provided educational materials to its nine regional offices to use for outreach events and will be distributing more than 270,000 reusable bags to low- and moderate-income communities.
Stop & Shop branches throughout the county began offering free reusable bags to customers who bring in one or more carryout plastic bags for recycling.
Similarly, in the county, a plastic straw ban took effect this January, which required businesses to switch biodegradable alternatives. A Styrofoam ban was also implemented, prohibiting businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene.
“We are expecting a successful implementation — we as a society can learn to bring a reusable bag when we go out shopping,” Esposito said. “Most people have already made the change, some have lagged behind, but this is one thing they can do to reduce plastic waste.”