You may have heard about state-wide plastic bag bans. This law is already in effect in California, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and, as of March 1, 2020, New York. That means when you check out at most stores, the cashier will no longer provide you with a plastic bag for your items, but instead a paper bag. In some counties, this paper bag will cost you a 5-cent tax, which will go toward the Environmental Protection Fund and the county. This is on top of a 5-cent fee that many retailers are charging consumers to use a paper bag. The state will wait until April 1 to penalize violators (store owners) for not using plastic bags.
There are some exceptions to the rule, including:
- Plastic bags used at grocery stores for produce, deli meats, raw meats, seafood, flowers, and plants
- Plastic bags used at restaurants and eateries for takeout and delivery
- Plastic bags used to protect clothing at laundry services and dry cleaners
- Plastic bags that wrap newspapers for delivery
- Plastic bags that hold prescription drugs for pharmacies
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), 23 billion plastic bags are used each year. These plastic bags are not easily recyclable, and end up piling high in landfills or polluting oceans. Most single-use plastic waste takes 400 years to break down and emits harmful toxins in the process. That’s why states such as New York are taking steps to reduce our reliance on plastics.
So, What Does This Mean?
Local grocery chain Market 32/Price Chopper has already replaced their plastic bags with brown paper bags. The food services at Saint Rose stopped using plastic bags almost a month ago. On March 1, the book store also changed from using plastic to paper bags. And you will start to notice this type of change nearly everywhere you go, with some stores charging $0.05 for a paper bag if you don’t bring your own.
So, What Should I Do?
To make your shopping experience easier (and cheaper), consider investing in a few good durable and reusable totes. According to the DEC, you can bring any type of reusable bag to the store — even the bags previously used by stores, if you’ve saved them — to bag your items. However, the DEC suggests an environmentally friendly bag, such as a cotton tote that can be washed and reused for years to come. The state agency even created a hashtag to encourage consumers to bring their own bags (#BYOBagNY). This can not only save you money, but also help save the planet. You can purchase reusable totes at your local grocery or retail store, or online. Some sell for as low as $1.
At first, it may feel weird having to pay for a bag to put your items in, but just know you are helping to make the Earth a better and cleaner place.