Consumers, businesses and localities are getting ready as New York state's plastic bag ban takes effect March 1st.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has released final regulations to implement the New York State Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Act, which goes into effect next month. DEC Chief of Staff Sean Mahar: "March 1st is a big day and all New Yorkers should be prepared that starting that day single use plastic bags will not be allowed to be provided at certain retail outfits as defined in legislation. We are going to be working over the coming months on a very robust education campaign. The education campaign is very much underway right now. But our goal is to make sure that there's a smooth transition for consumers and affected retailers with this ban. So we're going to continue that education effort. Enforcement will follow in the months ahead. But we want to give a period of transition. So everyone can come into compliance here, but as of March 1st single use plastic bags are prohibited."
Democratic state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of 109th district has long championed the ban. "We have in New York alone, been using 23 billion bags each year. So it's time to move away from plastic, to do what we can for the environment. And in the meantime, the regs have just come out, that's the regulations, the final regulations from DEC. I wish they'd come out a little sooner and I wish that we were doing more press on this. I myself am going to try to keep putting it out there to get folks ready. There is a little bit of concern from a number of environmentalist groups. There is a little wiggle room, if you will, on thickness of plastic. We really just want to move away from plastic bags and move towards reusable bags, even if some of those may be made of recycled plastic contents, but they are the reusable, and we want to make sure that we don't see stores gaming it if you will, by just giving away sticker slightly thicker plastic bags."
Fahy hopes people will become comfortable with reusable totes, negating the need for paper bags. "We're hoping nobody'll have to pay a 5 cent fee. We want folks reusing reusable bags, so they're stocking up now."
Albany Common Councilor Richard Conti says the ban will particularly affect his 6th Ward constituents. "I don't think people have thought about it. You know when I go to the grocery store, we go in with our reusable bags but we often see people coming out with big carts full of plastic bags. So these are folks that have not thought about it or think about it, don't do that. They don't probably have a supply of reusable bags. It's going to be taking some getting used to. The other aspect of this I mean we keep on talking about in terms of grocery stores and grocery bags but its applicability is wider than that to, you know, retail establishments, any any establishment that charges sales tax, so any retail stores, Macy's, Kohl's, so, you know, all those big department stores, they need to also convert to some type of a reusable bag or or non plastic bag. I'm not sure what they're going to do. But I don't know to what extent people understand the the wider applicability beyond just grocery stores that the ban has."
Mahar directs anyone uncertain about the ban to view specially prepared material available on the DEC website.