Feb. 26, 2020 By Kristen Torres
The state’s plastic bag ban goes into effect March 1 and New Yorkers will have to bring their own reusable bags to most stores or pay five cents for a paper one.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation outlawing the use of single-use plastic bags last year with the goal of cutting down on the nearly 10 billion plastic bags that are discarded each year in New York City alone.
The new ban will apply to all store owners, mall operators, and manufacturers that collect state taxes—including grocery stores, gas stations and bodegas.
“You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage,” Cuomo said in a statement.
But the state is still allowing the use of plastic bags in limited cases.
Plastic bags used to prevent food contamination, such as for take-out food, bulk packaging of fruits, nuts and vegetables or sliced meats are exempt from the new rule. So too are bags to protect privacy, such as those used for prescription medications.
Pre-packaged plastic bags sold in bulk, such as garbage or sandwich bags, are also exempt.
The state did not require local municipalities to charge 5 cents for the paper bags. However, the city went ahead with the bag tax–although residents who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Woman, Infant and Children program (WIC) are exempt from the fee.
Three cents of the bag tax will go to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, while the other two cents will be used to pay for the distribution of reusable bags.
The city’s DOS has been giving out free reusable bags as part of a massive campaign to get residents ready for the ban—nearly 700,000 reusable bags have been distributed by the department since 2016.