2016-05-11 / Editorials

Why A Bag Fee Does Not Solve The Problem


The City Council of New York cast their vote Thursday, May 5 on Councilman Brad S. Lander’s bill to impose a minimum fee of five cents for plastic or paper bags at retail, convenience, and grocery stores, with limited exceptions.

Bill No. 209-A will only hurt consumers. It will not hold accountable the stores that actually supply the very product we are trying to limit, and in fact, it will reward them. What incentive would stores have to limit the use of single use plastic bags when they will be collecting a fee of five cents per bag they distribute, and will no doubt raise millions of dollars in new revenue toward their bottom line?

Plastic bags are used in abundance on a daily basis and their disposal costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year. In order to fully eradicate this economic, but more importantly environmental problem, a better solution would be to prohibit the distribution of plastic carryout bags and require grocery stores to provide recyclable paper bags at no charge to consumers. Last year I introduced A3636, a bill that would do just this. Instead of charging a five-cent fee, stores should be held accountable for distributing a product to the consumer that causes this environmental and economic cost to its citizens. A second option would be for stores to distribute re-usable bags, sturdier than regular plastic bags, for a small rental fee or deposit.

It is suggestions like these our city government should be looking at rather than just taxing or charging behavioral fees to its residents. A city government that prides itself on being progressive cannot and should not approve such a regressive tax.

Michael DenDekker is a member of the NYS Assembly representing East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside and a retired member of the NYC Dept of Sanitation

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