New York Governor Urged to Enforce Statewide Ban of Plastic Bags

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plastic bag pollution caught in tree
Photo by r. nial bradshaw via CC BY 2.0

An unprecedented appeal to deliver a defining solution to New York‘s “plastic bag crisis” has been handed to state Governor Andrew Cuomo

Nearly 200 organizations have countersigned a letter addressed to the Governor and lawmakers to enact a state-wide ban similar to one in California.

The letter, handed in by the New York Public Interest Research Group, calls for a ban on the most popular supermarket plastic bags (under 2.25 mils) and a minimum 10-cent fee for paper and reusable, thicker plastic bags.

“It is time for New York State to catch up with California and address this serious plastic pollution problem”

The Governor had blocked similar legislation for New York City last year. However, he set up a Task Force to address the issue, but it did not provide a conclusion.

Mr. Cuomo, in setting up the Task Force, had said: “The costly and negative impact of plastic bags on New York’s natural resources is a statewide issue that demands a statewide solution.”

Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG, commented: “We are encouraged that in recent days the Governor has indicated he is willing to support a statewide ban on plastic bags.”

He urged the Governor to push through a ban as part of the budget or as a stand-alone bill.

Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, said:

”What does it say about us that we are unwilling to either bring our own reusable bag or pay ten cents for a paper bag when shopping?

“Countries far poorer than ours have given up plastic bags in the fight against waste and climate change. Is it really too much to ask of ourselves?”

Several environmentalists have also turned up the heat on the Governor to devise a solution soon.

“Governor Cuomo should get off the fence and support a ban on plastic bags,” said Eric Weltman, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch.

“If Cuomo is serious about moving New York off fossil fuels, reducing costly plastic waste is an important step in the right direction.”

Jennie Romer, who helped draft both the New York City plastic bag bills as well as bag laws in California, advocated the need for a small fee component to influence consumer behaviour.

“Over 311 local plastic bag laws have been adopted to date and we’ve had time to learn lessons about what works and doesn’t work in dozens of other major cities.

“Combining a ban on thin plastic bags with a fee on all other bags, like California’s statewide law, is a state-of-the-art bag law structure.”

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck lamented that without action there would soon be a situation that “1 pound of plastic in the ocean” will equate to every 3 pounds of fish.

“It is time for New York State to catch up with California and address this serious plastic pollution problem,” she added.

Maura Stephens, a cofounder of the grassroots Coalition to Protect New York added: “About 12 million barrels of oil are required to make the 100 billion plastic bags used in the US yearly.

“Each of which is used on average 12 minutes before being sent on its way to a landfill, or eventually to the ocean. That is pure insanity.”

“All faith traditions, including Judaism, have much to say about protecting and preserving the world,” said Nigel Savage, the CEO of Hazon, the largest environmental organization in the Jewish community. “But the challenge and the opportunity for Governor Cuomo is now to turn pious words into legislative action.”