Op-Ed: Cut Plastic Bag Use

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City Council bill would impose a 10-cent surcharge — and act as an incentive


  • Photo: Timothy Krause, via flickr

Every time I see a plastic shopping bag blowing down a sidewalk, I make the effort to pick it up and bring it to the trash or recycling. That’s because here in New York City, plastic bags can wind up in a river, and eventually, the ocean where they can kill fish, birds, turtles. This horrifies me. And the numbers do, too.

Each year, New Yorkers use 5.2 billion plastic carry-out bags, and many of them end up as pollution. Plastic bags clog storm drains, exacerbating flooding and sewage discharge, and cause urban blight when they wind up in trees and wash up on beaches.

What We Can Do

If this horrifies you too, you can now do something about it. Go to bagitnyc.org and let the mayor and our city councilmembers know you support
Intro 209-2014, legislation that would impose a 10-cent fee on supermarket bags among other things, to get New Yorkers to think twice about taking a bag. It will incentivize shoppers to bring their own reusable bags and can raise consumer awareness about other mindful shopping habits. In Washington, D.C., where a similar law is on the books, plastic bag usage dropped 60 percent. In San Jose, California, plastic bag litter was cut by a whopping 89 percent, and the average number of plastic shopping bags decreased from 3 bags to 0.3 bags per visit.

Opportunity to Make a Difference

Think of the difference it would make if we could reduce plastic bag usage in New York! In addition to the environmental benefits, it would take a big bite out of the $12 million the city spends annually to dispose of bags in landfills. As the largest city in the world with a fee on plastic bags, it would set an example for many other cities as well.

Let’s Get This Bill Passed by Earth Day

We missed our opportunity last year, but we can still make it happen in 2016. Contact your council member to voice your support for Intro 209 to impose a 10-cent fee on plastic shopping bags! Make a telephone call, send an email or send a letter or personal email.

Jacquelyn A. Ottman is a green marketing pioneer and author, zero waste advocate and founder of WeHateToWaste.com

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