UPDATE: Despite a push for the City Council to vote on NYC's proposed bag fee before Earth Day (April 22), the decision has been delayed until next month due to three co-sponsors being out of town.
"We could squeeze it through, but it's going to be close, probably the closest vote of this term, as ridiculous as that is, so we're going to wait until the next stated [meeting] to bring it to the floor," said the bill's champion Brad Lander, as reported in Crain's. "And hopefully by then, maybe the mayor and the speaker will be ready to give a little more volume to their support of it."
The bill is now expected to get a vote at a meeting on May 5. Waste Dive will continue to report on this story as it develops.
- A proposed five-cent fee on plastic bags in New York City has garnered 26 co-sponsors, giving it majority support by one vote. However, the mayor has not signed the legislation (titled "Intro 209"), and will not have the opportunity to do so until it comes up for vote at the next Council meeting set for April 20.
- Opponents, who have secured at least 20 votes against the rule according to Politico, argue the bag fee is a "regressive tax" because citizens of all incomes would pay the same. But supporters counter this argument, with Councilman Antonio Reynoso stating, "The notion that poor black and brown communities can't get with the program on environmental issues is not only insulting, but it is also wrong," as reported in Politico.
- The legislation has fueled debate even within the same party, and Councilman David Greenfield referred to the bill as "one of the most divisive issues to come before the City Council."
100 billion bags are tossed in the US every year, less than 5% of which are recycled. Rather, they litter land and water and choke out marine life. To increase awareness and deter littering, some municipalities have imposed plastic bag fees, including Washington, DC; Portland, ME; and Boulder, CO.
The important question is, does this charge work? One of the most comprehensive studies to address this question was done in Scotland, which showed 650 million fewer bags were used in one year after shoppers began paying 5p (about 5 cents) for a plastic bag.
The vocal group of environmentalists fighting for the fee are optimistic that the rule could significantly curb the billions of plastic bags that make their way onto landfills and into waterways in the US. However Councilman Rory Lancman does not buy the rationale.
"One of the things I promised consistently across the board, which my constituents care about, was making life in New York City more affordable," he said at a meeting Wednesday, as reported in Politico New York. "Here, with this bag tax, we are doing the exact opposite."
But a few council members who started out with Lancman have changed their mind, coming around after the original proposed 10-cent fee was cut in half; this includes Councilman Jumaane Williams, who was especially swayed when the proposal was amended to include a study to assess the fee’s impact on low-income communities of color.
"I think this is actually a really annoying topic, but no one can disagree on how bad plastic bags are, so we have to move forward with a way to try and deal with it," said Williams, as reported in Politico.