Bag Fee Threatened to Be Overturned in Big Apple
The 5-cent fee on disposable plastic plastic bags handed out in New York City that is set to go into action this month may be canceled before it even gets started. The motivation behind the measure was to discourage the use of disposable plastic bags and the resulting negative environmental impact, and encourage the use of reusable shopping bags. Despite a lot of support it turns out there was more opposition, and lawmakers want to overturn the ruling. While it looks like there is no immediate solution to address the plastic bag problem in NYC there are still ways to turn things around.
Reasons Not to Regulate Plastic Bags
Opposition to the fee cited the financial burden this places on residents already living in a city with a very high cost of living. Critics also argued that it may work better to offer shoppers incentives for bringing reusable shopping bags instead of levying a fee. Increased efforts around recycling were also cited as a method to reduce plastic bag trash. "There might be another way to do this... that will work for all New Yorkers," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick, D-Staten Island. "People are exhausted by constant fees, by fares, by everything." Any type of legislation around disposable plastic bag regulation takes some adjusting and getting used to, and the possible solutions offered by the opposition may be ways to help improve the waste stream.
The Benefits of Disposable Plastic Bag Fees
Fees are proven to drastically reduce the amount of trash, and NYC generates a lot of trash. Disposable plastic bags are not biodegradable, which means if they end up in a landfill or as litter they aren’t going anywhere. The fine print of the measure would have exempt people on food stamps from paying to fee, so as to not place an additional burden
Recycling Is Not a Viable Option
Disposable shopping bags can be recycled, but the sad reality is that a very small percentage of these bags actually are recycled. Thin film plastic bags are hard to recycle. They tend to get stuck in the processing machinery and when this happens the operation has to be stopped, so the blockage can be cleared. For this reason many recycling facilities do not accept single-use shopping bags for processing. It just isn’t worth it as a business model. Since not all facilities accept disposable plastic bags finding a drop off point can also be a challenge. Most curbside recycling programs do not accept plastic bags. This is actually good because if these thin, lightweight bags were tossed in open air bins it’s very likely they would be carried away by the wind before they were picked up, so there were be an increased amount of litter. Many states have programs that require stores that distribute disposable bags to also collect them for recycling. These programs are typically not promoted very well, and in many instances shoppers are not aware they can bring their used plastic bags back to the store. The disconnect between shoppers with disposable bags and recycling facilities that accept plastic bags leads to low recycling rates, and is why recycling just does not keep up with manufacture of disposable plastic bags.
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