Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Disposable Bags & the NYS Budget


Over the last few decades, the issue of disposable bag pollution has become a global concern.  Plastic and paper bags have become ubiquitous, and are taking a toll on our environment and our economy.  According to the EPA, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, and each of those bags is used for an average of 12 minutes.  These bags, which never fully break down, end up in our landfills, parks, beaches, along roadways, parking lots and in our waterways.  Disposable bags are harmful, wasteful, costly, and unnecessary:

Wasting Natural Resources Both plastic and paper bags require vast amounts of our natural resources to manufacture and to transport.  Paper bags use approximately 14 million trees every year.  Natural gas is the most common feedstock used to produce plastic bags in the U.S.  To produce the 100 billion plastic bags that are thrown away in U.S. every year, it requires 2.2 billion pounds of fossil fuel and 3.9 billion gallons of fresh water, while producing a billion pounds of solid waste and 2.7 million tons of CO2.

Clogging Storm DrainsDisposable bags often end up as unsightly litter in our communities, and when it rains, this litter is swept into storm drains blocking them and causing infrastructure damage and localized flooding.   In 1998, ⅔ of Bangladesh was submerged in flood waters.  The primary cause of this flooding was found to be clogged storm drains due to plastic bag pollution.

Polluting Waterways and Harming Wildlife – Studies have found high levels of plastics in the Great Lakes and oceans, and thousands of plastic bags are being found on our beaches.  Plastic bags never fully break down; they photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces.  Fish and wildlife consume plastic pieces, mistaking them for food, or become ensnared in plastic debris.

Costing Consumers and Taxpayers U.S. retailers spend approximately $4 billion annually to purchase disposable bags, which is being passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.  Municipalities are also spending millions of dollars to dispose of plastic bags.

People around the world are now choosing the sustainable alternative: reusable bags. New York State could become a world leader in this movement by placing a 5 cent charge on disposable plastic and paper bags at check-out counters.  This would slash disposable bag pollution and encourage residents to finally break the disposable bag habit by switching to reusable bags.  Placing a charge on disposable bags makes sense economically and ecologically, and it is time for NYS to join the global movement towards reusable bags!

New York State is missing out on an opportunity to generate revenue and stop disposable bag pollution.  New York State can and should include this in the budget.  Governor Cuomo failed to act on this, but the Assembly and Senate can still do so.  So please take a minute to contact your Senator and Assemblymember and tell them now is the time to end unnecessary disposable bag pollution by including a 5 cent fee on disposable bags in the NYS budget.

Check out this Albany Times Union editorial in support of the reusable bag incentive


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