Starting March 1, if you shop without a bag in the State of New York, you’ll have a lot on your hands: that’s when the statewide ban on single-use plastic bags begins. Feel free to draw upon your stockpile of plastic bags going forward, but establishments that collect New York State sales tax – ie, grocery stores and retail shops – can no longer pack your purchases into the membrane-thin plastic bag of yore.
Why a Ban?
According to the NYC Department of Sanitation, in New York City alone, residents use more than 10 billion single-use carryout bags every year, which racks up more than $12 million annually in disposal costs.
“Plastic bags are used on average just 12 minutes before being trashed, yet last hundreds or thousands of years in a landfill,” says Julie Raskin, executive director of the Foundation for New York’s Strongest, which engages citizens and businesses in waste management practices.
Given that the city is lagging behind its recycling goals (as reported by The New York Times on January 29), the NYS Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse and Recycling Act is also a response to advocates concerned with the environmental health of our planet. It doesn’t just pack landfills, but ends up in waterways and oceans, where in original form or even broken down into microplastic, it harms and kills wildlife, which in turn, disrupts ecosystems.
PBS NewsHour has devoted an hour-long special to the science and impact of plastics in “The Plastic Problem.” Chockfull of stats and figures that make it easy to understand the undesired impacts of this practical product, the special also addresses the unknowns, such as the effect of ingesting plastic – on fish, and the humans that eat them.