Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is welcoming a new push at the state level to ban plastic shopping bags. Two State Senators from Manhattan say their bill is designed to encourage more use of reusable bags.
Manhattan Democrats Liz Kreuger and Brad Hoylman are co-sponsoring a bill in the State Senate that would end the use of plastic shopping bags, with a few exceptions including use for restaurant takeouts and with meat and produce.
According to a report issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic shopping bags each year. Most of them, after used to take home groceries or other purchases, end up in landfills. Many also end up on streets, yards or hang from trees and bushes.
"They have a lifespan greater than each and every one of us," said County Executive Poloncarz. "One of those single-use plastic bags will last longer than the rest of us combined. That's scary. It really is. We need to do our best to create and promote a better planet. I fully support a ban of single-use plastic bags."
Poloncarz has already been calling for a ban at the county level. He says while he's prefer a ban passed at the state level he'll continue his push for local legislation, noting that Erie County was among the first to ban the use of plastic microbeads, followed soon after by New York State and the federal government.
The Kreuger and Hoylman proposal faces a potential challenge over one of its provisions. Under their proposal, stores would be allowed to charge a small fee for using paper bags or for the first-time distribution of a reusable bag. The stores would keep 20 percent of each charge to offset their costs but the rest would go into an environmental fund.
Poloncarz supports that idea, and he thinks consumers would eventually learn to live without the plastic they're now using.
"I remember the time when we went from paper to plastic and there was this huge uproar among people, 'Oh my God this is terrible! I want my paper bag!'" Poloncarz said. "Within a few months, everyone was taking plastic and very few were using paper."