In a move that will probably surprise no one, city council members in New York City are considering legislation that would charge fees to customers who receive their items in paper or plastic bags while shopping. The NYC grocery bag fee would be ten cents per bag and is an effort to save the city money while limiting the use of products that can be harmful to the environment.
According to Deputy Sanitation Commissioner Ron Gonen, the grocery bag fee would save NYC millions of dollars per year. “We could save approximately $10 million a year if we could significantly reduce the amount of plastic shopping bags we use on an annual basis,” Gonen said.
If you're wondering exactly how a paper or plastic grocery bag could cost a city that much money, Councilwoman Margaret Chin says the main problem is with cleanup. "The bags get stuck in storms drains, they cause flooding and they litter our beaches," said Chin. "And they cost New York City a lot of money." The fees collected will reportedly go to store owners, not the city, so the savings is purely from having less cleanup.
Ten million bucks is certainly nothing to scoff at, but backers of the legislation have a little ways to go if they want to see the bill passed. The legislation was originally proposed last August, but never gained enough steam to make it to a vote. The grocery bag fee legislation has a lot more support this time around, with nineteen council members co-sponsoring the new bill. The legislation would only need seven more votes to be passed.
With all of the bans and restrictions in New York these days, some residents are less than pleased with the proposal of the NYC grocery bag fee. As you likely remember, NYC is notorious for banning (or attempting to ban) certain products, including sodas of a certain size and the use of e-cigarettes in certain spaces. While the sponsors of the legislation are quick to point out that this isn't a ban, it is easy to understand why some residents are slow to warm up to the proposal.
Aside from people being against more rules and regulations, one concern about charging the fee on grocery bags is that it could be a burden to people in lower-income households. One councilman against the legislation, Rory Lancman, estimates that the fees could cost families around $150 per year. “I don’t think we should make policy based on inflicting pain in order to change behavior,” Lancman said.
Possibly burdening people with limited incomes isn't an issue with supporters of the legislation. Councilman Brad Lander, one of the main backers of the bill, says that it's very easy to get around paying the NYC grocery bag fee by simply purchasing reusable totes.
"People can choose to not pay [the fee] at all by bringing a reusable bag to the grocery store,” Lander said. Reusable totes can often be purchased for as little as a dollar each, which means the average family shouldn't be burdened by more than twenty dollars per year (assuming the bags are eventually replaced).
Do you think charging a fee on paper and plastic grocery bags or banning them altogether is a good idea? Add your thoughts on the legislation below.
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