New York Daily News Proposed NYC plastic bag fee spawns rallies at City Hall by Chauncey Alcorn
The battle over a proposed plastic bag charge raged on the steps of City Hall Wednesday.
Supporters of the measure asserted that the majority of the City Council now backs the legislation to charge a 5-cent fee on every plastic and paper sack that stores give out.
The initial bill sought to hit customers with a 10-cent charge for new bags. The new version has 26 co-sponsors.
"We are trying to reduce the nine billion plastic bags sent to landfills, littering streets, and clogging our waterways," Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who co-sponsored the bill, told reporters. "This amended legislation is the best way to reduce the 91,000 tons of plastic waste that generates every year in our city."
Chin and environmental activists want the city to celebrate Earth Day next week by signing a bag fee into law, making New York the latest major city to do so.
But opponents of the proposed law argue bag fees would create a financial hardship for low income New Yorkers already overburdened with the city's high cost of living.
"This is going to have a negative impact on people that cannot afford it," Councilman Rory Lancman said at an earlier City Hall press conference. "We're going to encourage people to adopt certain behaviors by inflicting financial pain on them."
Environmental activist Mark Winston Griffin of the Brooklyn Movement Center trashed that argument.
"The idea is not to make sure people pay five cents. The point is to make plastic bags go the way of the subway token in New York City," he said. "Climate environmental justice is not the sole domain of gentrifiers."
If passed, the proposed law won't go into effect for another six months, giving shoppers time to obtain reusable grocery bags commonly used in Europe and other parts of the world.
Councilman Brad Lander says some of the reusable bags cost less than $1.
"Once the bill passes, the city will undertake an aggressive outreach program for a very substantial reusable bag giveaway," he said. "We've already given out thousands in neighborhoods all over the city."