New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a legislation to ban the sale of single-use plastic bags across the state.


Image: Tanzania has imposed ban on plastic bags to reduce plastic waste. Photo: courtesy of RitaE / Pixabay.

The new law signed on Earth Day will come into force from March 2020, and will help reduce pollution and protect fish and wildlife.

The estimations show that New Yorkers use 23 billion plastic bags per annum, while nationwide studies reveal that around 50% of single-use plastic bags end up as litter.

Apart from preventing plastic bag litter in the environment, the ban will help decrease the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal ranging from petroleum used to produce the bags to emissions from the transportation of bags to landfills.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will work with stakeholders and community leaders for the distribution of reusable bags to low and moderate income and environmental justice communities, enabling to better implement the new legislation.

In March 2017, Governor Cuomo formed the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force, headed by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.

The task force met several times for the development of a uniform, comprehensive and equitable solution to the plastic bag problem.

The final report determined the impacts of single-use plastic bags and offered various options for legislation, which may help develop a statewide solution to the issue.

The new legislation enables to restrict the sale of single-use and plastic carryout bags at any point of sale, and provides DEC exclusive jurisdiction over all matters associated to plastic bags.

Garment bags, trash bags and other bags used to wrap or contain certain foods such as fruits and sliced meats are exempt from the ban, under the new law.

California and Hawaii have also banned the sale of single-use plastic bags, in addition to New York.

Governor Cuomo said: “You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage.

“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. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we’re putting an end to this blight on our environment.”