New York City Council recently voted on Intro 209, a bill that would impose a minimum fee of five cents on plastic and paper bags at retail, convenience, and grocery stores. The bill passed with a vote of 28-20, as council members gave bold statements about the new wave of environmentally conscious decisions. According to reports from the city council, New Yorkers use more than nine billion single-use plastic bags every single year.
“New York City must seize this moment to get 9 billion plastic bags out of our trees, parks, playgrounds, storm drains, beaches, oceans, and landfills,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “The fee is irritating which is precisely why it works.”
While the plastic bag tax won’t officially hit customer’s bills until October, the legislation still met a fair amount of opposition. Some Council members called the bill stupid while others pointed to companies that offer large quantities of plastic bags online. Although the idea is fairly new to New York City, similar legislation has passed in parts of California and Washington, D.C.
In an effort to get some first hand reactions about the impending tax, the Brooklyn Reader interviewed local shoppers in Bedstuy and Bushwick. A fair amount of shoppers admitted that they hadn’t heard about when the tax would take effect but for the most part, these residents were unfazed by the new legislation.
“I would probably have a problem with it if it didn’t make sense but I trust the city council on this. They have researchers who say that plastic bags are hurting the environment and when I look around the city, I can agree that we’ve come to rely on them. I don’t mind paying a few extra cents because I forgot my tote bag.” Said Rochelle D’Swarte of Bedford Stuyvesant
The new legislation comes complete with clauses that allow certain transactions to include plastic bags for no fee. Restaurant meals, prescription drugs, and any groceries purchased with food stamps will not be subjected to the tax, allowing those patrons to use the bags free of charge. Local Brooklyn merchants haven’t expressed much worry about the tax but they can agree that it will increase their customer interactions.
“Around here, it can go both ways. Some people come in to buy groceries and know exactly what they want to spend and what they expect their bill to be. If we add on a tax of any kind, they have questions. For some other people, they come in and buy things completely unaware. We could add a tax of $3 and they might not notice!” Said Lorianne J. who works as a cashier at her local grocery store in Bushwick.
The five cent tax decision came after City Council was originally arguing for a ten cent tax bill, which created an even more heated debate among the members. At the end of the day despite anyone’s protest, New Yorkers will soon have to make the decision to bring their own bags to the store or to subject themselves to a nominal fee. City Council Members in favor of the legislation hope that it will serve to assist New Yorkers in building better habits for the environment as they consumer and shop around the city.