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New York to become the next state to ban plastic bags

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the ban as part of the state's $175 billion budget proposal

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Democratic lawmakers have agreed on a deal that would ban single-use plastic bags across the state, The Associated Press reported.

Cuomo proposed the idea as part of his $175 billion budget plan for the fiscal year 2019-20. State lawmakers are working to finalize the proposal ahead of Monday's deadline, officials told the AP Friday.

"For far too long plastic bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways and that's why I proposed a ban in this year's budget," Cuomo said in a statement to The Hill.

"With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers," he added.

Once passed, New York would become the third state to prohibit plastic bags for most purchases at grocery stores.

California placed a statewide ban on plastic bags in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban that allows the state's four counties to set its own restrictions.

When would the ban take effect?

The ban is expected to go into effect next March.

Environmental groups have pushed lawmakers to include paper bags as part of the ban.

While the proposal didn't include a ban on paper bags, it would allow local governments to impose a 5-cent fee on paper bags.

Local governments would keep 2 cents from the fee, while 3 cents would go to the New York Environmental Protection Fund.

What do supporters say?

Supporters say the ban would help protect the ecosystem.

"Plastic bags pollute our waterways and streets, and both plastic and paper bags contribute to the solid waste crisis and cost taxpayers money," Patrick McClellan, state policy director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, told the AP. "While the best policy would be a ban on plastic bags coupled with a statewide fee on other disposable bags, this agreement represents a tremendous step forward."

What do opponents say?

Some, including the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, believe the plastic bag ban would not only be harmful to businesses but that paper bags pose a greater threat to the environment.

The Food Industry Alliance, which represents many in the state's grocery industry, issued a statement earlier this year opposing Cuomo's proposal to ban plastic bags.

Governor Cuomo's push to improve the environmental health of New York is a laudable goal, which is shared and championed by the retail food industry. In fact, a recent survey of our members found that approximately 16,773 tons of co-mingled plastic bags have been recycled by retail food stores.

That said, a plastic bag ban will not promote the utilization of reusable bags and will in fact increase the use of paper bags. Studies have proven that paper bags cost more to generate and transport, which impacts the environment at a significant rate.

Any legislation that aims to improve the environment, increase recycling and promote better consumer behavior needs to address paper bags. New York's retail food industry is reeling with significant increases in labor costs and numerous business mandates. A plastic bag ban will simply increase the financial duress for New York's grocery store industry without achieving the goal of improving the environment. New York's environmental advocates have also echoed this concern.

While we strongly oppose this proposal from Governor Cuomo, we look forward to working with the administration on a more sustainable solution that benefits both our industry and environment.
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