With yesterday's passage of the budget, New York became the second state in the country to ban most single-use plastic bags. Back when the ban was just a possibility, some voiced concerns that it did not go far enough toward corralling the masses toward reusables: People would simply lean on paper bags, which take their own environmental toll—deforestation, the heavier energy demands in producing and recycling paper, and higher waste production among the notable downsides. Plastic bag bans have only worked when coupled with a paper bag fee, critics argued, and now, New York City is taking a step in that direction.
On Tuesday, City Council members Margaret Chin, Brad Lander, Donovan Richards, Antonio Reynoso, Ben Kallos, and Keith Powers announced forthcoming legislation providing for a 5-cent fee on paper bags. Proceeds from every bag sold would be divided between the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, which would get 3 cents, and the city, which would use the remainder to buy reusable bags for New Yorkers (particularly low-income and elderly New Yorkers, who might have a hard time avoiding the fee otherwise).
It bears noting that the plastic bag ban won't be total: Restaurants will still be able to package your takeout in plastic bags, delis and butchers may still wrap meats in plastic, and plastic bags for bulk items are still allowed. Newspaper and garment bags will be similarly exempted, as will trash and recycling bags.