In recent years, more than a dozen cities, towns, and municipalities have taken action to address the environmental and health concerns associated with single-use plastic bags. From littering the roadside to harming marine life and jamming the machinery at sanitation plants, nearly everyone can agree that plastic bag use presents problems. And current law does not seem to control use and disposal, encourage reuse or recycling adequately. The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that New Yorkers use 23 billion single-use plastic bags each year.
Last year, the Governor blocked a five-cent fee to be charged for plastic bags in New York City and instead put together a Plastic Bag Task Force to study the statewide problem. The Task Force, charged with gathering information, analyzing single-use bag reduction measures, developing a report and proposing legislation, has just completed its Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags: Options for New York State Plastic Bag Legislation.
The 88-page report thoroughly details pros and cons of various proposals to reduce single-use plastic bags but fails to make a single recommendation. It instead offers a list of eight legislative options including:
Expanding education and enforcement under existing recycling laws;
Requiring manufacturers to fund a recycling program;
Instituting a fee on each single-use plastic bag;
Instituting a transaction fee on single-use plastic bags;
Instituting a fee on each single-use plastic and paper bag;
Banning single-use plastic bags;
Banning single-use plastic bags and instituting a fee on alternatives;
Leave existing law.
NFIB/NY has for many years been engaged in the fight against a tax on plastic bags, and we are concerned that some of these options could ultimately lead to administrative burdens such as record-keeping and employee training, as well as practical obstacles and financial challenges, for retailers and restaurants among other small businesses.
In addition, NFIB/NY has concerns about the impact on the plastic bag manufacturing industry. According to the Task Force’s report, which cites the 2012 US Department of Commerce’s Economic Census of Manufacturing, about 30 of the 69 plastics manufacturers in New York are primarily engaged in bag manufacturing. These businesses employ thousands of individuals, purchase tens of millions of dollars in supplies and make significant capital expenditures on equipment and buildings. New York State has done much to strengthen manufacturing in recent year, and it is hardly the time to adopt policies that will harm a significant portion of the industry.
NFIB/NY also will be monitoring any proposed legislation for adequate phase-in and compliance periods, administrative burdens related to the receipt and collection of fees as well, as details regarding recycling responsibilities and associated costs. We will weigh in accordingly as legislation is introduced.