Almost every item you buy in New York City comes with a higher price tag, and now that rule holds true for bags, too. New York City Council approved a 5-cent fee on paper or plastic bags, hoping to irritate New Yorkers into bringing reusable bags when they shop.
In an interview with The New York Times, Councilman Brad Lander of Brooklyn, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said New Yorkers will find the fee irritating — so much so that it will finally convince them to bring their own bags. His logic? "... the fact that it's irritating irritates a lot of people."
Stores will keep the money collected from the fee, and they have a six-month grace period to implement the fee before they will face fines. The goal of the 5-cent charge, which will go into effect Oct. 1, is to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in the waste stream. The New York City sanitation department says it sends about 10 billion single-use plastic bags yearly to the landfill, and the cost of carting those unrecycled bags is about $12.5 million in public funds each year, according to Gothamist.
In the long run, everyone benefits from the positive environmental impact of reducing plastic bag usage up to 60 percent (the projected outcome). But in the short term, lower-income residents will feel more of a pinch unless they switch to reusable bags. Those who pay for groceries with food stamps will be exempt from the fee, but there are plenty of people who aren't on food stamps who don't have many nickels to spare.
Other exemptions, according to the New York Times, include delivery and takeout restaurants, street food vendors, the plastic bags used for produce, the paper bags used for medicines at pharmacies, state-regulated liquor store bags, and soup kitchen bags.
Many of the council members who represent the most impoverished districts in the city voted against the fee, but in the end, the legislation passed 28-20 and has the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio.