Saturday, February 15, 2020

New York Joins California, Oregon, and Hawaii in Banning Plastic Bags

As of March 1, 2020, the State of New York will officially ban plastic bag use in places that collect New York state taxes. New York becomes the fourth state to institute a ban and joins California, Hawaii, and Oregon in banning plastic bags. It also will be the first state with a full ban on the East Coast of the United States.

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Individual counties can allow stores to charge for the use os paper bags, but plastic bags will be a thing of the past in New York. Of course there are some limited exceptions. For example, pharmacies can continue to use plastic bags.

The state of New York has been using about 23 billion plastic bags a year. Many of these end up in our waterways and oceans. Once set free, they can clog pipes, they can be eaten by wildlife, they can disrupt waterways, and they can become a visual blight. Sea turtles, birds, marine mammals, and fish are all vulnerable to plastic bag waste. Once they ingest the plastic, it clogs their digestive systems and they die slow painful deaths.

New York's plastic bag ban has come under some criticism. There are some who think that the ban will lead to widespread use of paper bags. Others also believe that consumers are not going to like the ban and will use reusable thicker plastic bags as disposable bags. However, when the ban went into effect in California, it cut the overall use of plastic bags by over 70%.

There are plenty of reusable alternatives to plastic bags that can be used in a variety of situations. We are all familiar with reusable grocery bags. Many of us have been using these for years. However, there are some great alternatives available for take out food, for bookstores, and a range of other situations. We just have to get used to keeping some lightweight bags handy for our own use.

As I predicted in my 2020 sustainability predictions, we are starting to see major wins on the plastic front. States, business, and countries are all working hard to reduce the amount of plastic released into the environment. It is great that New York State is part of the trend.

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