The state became the second in the country to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags, with lawmakers approving the new legislation on Sunday that would take effect as early as next March as part of a larger $175 billion budget.
(California has had a similar policy since 2016, and Hawaii effectively has a statewide ban with all counties in the state barring the use of plastic bags. Other major metropolitan cities including Boston, Chicago and nearby Jersey City, N.J., already prohibit the bags at retail and grocery stores.)
“Plastic bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways,” tweeted Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who first proposed the ban a year ago. “By banning them, we will protect our natural resources for future generations of New Yorkers.”
Fast-fashion giants like H&M, Zara, Uniqlo and Forever 21; specialty boutiques such as Necessary Clothing; and off-price retailers TJ Maxx and Marshalls continue to use plastic shopping bags in their New York stores. The same goes for major department stores including Macy’s and J.C. Penney.
Moreover, the bags have long been commonplace in certain New York City neighborhoods. In Chinatown, for instance, many mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and groceries provide carryout options in the form of plastic bags. Some people have grown accustomed to reusing plastic bags for trash and recycling purposes or even transporting any number of items back and forth.
However, Jane Hali & Associates retail research analyst Jessica Ramirez explained that the ban’s potential to impact residents’ lifestyles may only be minimal — which can be largely attributed to New Yorkers’ unique carrying habits — while serving as a bigger win for environmental sustainability.
“When you think about New York City, most people are out and about all day. They’re grabbing apparel and grocery needs, but most people are already traveling with backpacks or other handbags,” she said. “In urban areas like New York City, people have already opted out from using plastic bags; they don’t take them because they already have somewhere else to carry [their purchases].”
Counties in New York would have the option to charge customers a 5-cent fee on paper bags, with three cents going to the state’s environmental protection fund and two cents to remain with the municipality. Shoppers are also permitted to bring their own reusable totes.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 90 bills have been proposed this year in relation to plastic bags, majority of which ordered their ban or an extra charge. The Citizens Budget Commission reports that about 71,000 tons of plastic bags are used annually in New York City.