NYC Council passes controversial 5-cent bag fee

Dive Brief:

  • The New York City Council has passed a controversial bag bill (Intro 209) in a 28-20 vote, which will impose a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic single-use bags throughout the city. The law will go into effect Oct. 1.
  • The fee will apply to retail, grocery, and convenience stores as well as some street vendors. The merchants will pocket the money, unlike similar bills in which cities use the money for education or cleanup programs.
  • The bill will exempt NYC residents that are shopping with the assistance of government benefits. It will also exempt restaurants, so consumers will not need to worry about paying extra for delivery.

Dive Insight:

After two years, the heated debate is finally over: New Yorkers will need to switch to reusable bags or face a fine, which will most likely curb the magnitude of plastic bags that are tossed each year. According to The New York Times, DSNY reported that the city spends $12.5 million annually disposing of paper and plastic bags.

This decision wasn't made easily, though. According to Councilman David Greenfield, the vote was one of the "most divisive issues" that the Council has dealt with this legislative season, as both sides of the debate had strong reasoning for why the bill should or should not have passed. The city intended to have a decision on the matter two weeks ago, but it was pushed back due to three co-sponsors being out of town.

Since that time, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito backed the bill, which was likely the final push it needed to get passed.

Opponents, however, are not pleased, as many of them believe the bill will have a negative effect on low-income consumers, and that the bill wouldn't change behavior. To address these concerns, the fee was halved from the original 10-cent proposal to 5, but that still was not enough to keep opponents from fighting it to the last minute.

Regardless, proponents that pushed for environmental justice came out victorious. New York City now joins other major cities that have put similar fees on single-use bags, including Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles

Waste Dive will continue to update this story as it develops.

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Filed Under: Waste Diversion
Top image credit: Flickr