New York State’s Bag Waste Reduction Law went into effect on Sunday, March 1, officially banning plastic bags in the state.
This law is not new to Ulster County residents, as they have had the Ulster County Bring Your Own Bag Act since July 15, 2019. This law banned most retail stores in the county from giving out single-use plastic bags.
As of March 1, the Bag Waste Reduction Law is the new overarching law for the state and will take precedence over any county laws of similar statute.
“Absent any federal action or leadership on this issue, it is time for New York State to take more decisive action to expand our efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags by consumers and keep as much plastic as possible from the waste stream,” stated the New York State Plastic Bag Force in a report, “An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Plastic Bag Force in 2017 to research solutions to the plastic bag issue that could be implemented throughout the state.
According to their research, plastic bags are harmful to the environment because they are derived from fossil fuels, are harmful to animals and nature, are an avoidable excess single-use waste product, pollute land and waterways, cause issues with tangling in recycling equipment and are costly to manage.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), over 23 billion plastic bags are used each year in New York.
“Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish,” Cuomo said in a press release on Feb. 20. “We took bold action to protect our environment and ban these environmental blights and with this campaign we’re going to make sure New Yorkers are ready and have all the facts.”
Along with the law, Gov. Cuomo’s campaign included the DEC distributing over 270,000 reusable bags to low and moderate income communities throughout the state, as well as promoting #BYOBagNY through social media posts and video promotions.
While most New Paltz residents seem to support the plastic bag ban, one Facebook user was not in favor.
“Many people use those bags as garbage bag liners; they’re not single use for many people,” said Facebook user Zain Eisenberg. “This bag ban is an attempt by politicians to not address real problems, and appease those that are overly concerned with the environment because it’s easy to blame plastic bags. There is no credible alternative to plastic, we need to move towards a circular economy of the plastic where it gets reused not banned.”
The DEC encourages residents to recycle their plastic bags in “film plastics recycling bins,” like those outside of Tops Friendly Markets, and not in a regular recycling bin. According to the DEC, plastic bags are a type of film plastics and cannot be recycled in household recycling bins.
While the law went into effect on March 1, the DEC has decided to not enforce this law until April 1. However, in the meantime they plan to focus on educating residents on alternative options to plastic and the benefits of ceasing production of plastic bags.