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Almost 200 Organizations Call On New York Governor & Lawmakers to Ban Plastic Bags

Nearly 200 organizations are calling upon Governor Cuomo to enact a statewide ban on single use plastic bans similar to the law in California.
The New York Public Interest Research Group delivered the letter to Governor Cuomo and state legislative leaders urging them to take action to address the “statewide plastic bag crisis.”
The Governor and legislature last year blocked implementation of a law passed in New York City. The Governor created a Task Force to develop recommendations, stating “The costly and negative impact of plastic bags on New York’s natural resources is a statewide issue that demands a statewide solution.”
The Task Force’s final report detailed problems with plastic bags but did not provide a conclusive solution.
“We are encouraged that in recent days the Governor has indicated he is willing to support a statewide ban on plastic bags. We had hoped that the Governor would have included such a proposal in his proposed budget, but there is still time for him to push a ban as part of the budget or as a stand-alone bill,” said Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG.
The letter stated that New York State should enact policies that are similar to those of California which has two major components: (1) a statewide ban on thin plastic bags (under 2.25 mils)—the ones most often distributed by supermarkets (those with handles, not the ones used to wrap foodstuffs); and (2) a minimum 10-cent fee for paper & reusable, thicker plastic bags.
Environmental Advocates of NY noted that the collection of bag fees was one way to help the state resolve its budget deficit this year.
A number of environmentalists went on record to detail their reasons for wishing to see New York ban plastic bags.
“Governor Cuomo should get off the fence and support a ban on plastic bags. These instant pieces of trash are a petrochemical product made from fracked gas. If Cuomo is serious about moving New York off fossil fuels, reducing costly plastic waste is an important step in the right direction,” said Eric Weltman, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch.
Jennie Romer, who helped draft both the New York City plastic bag bills as well as bag laws in California, said, “Plastic bag laws have been discussed and adopted at the local and state level in the U.S. for over a decade. Over 311 local plastic bag laws have been adopted to date and we’ve had time to learn lessons about what works in doesn’t work in dozens of other major cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles. The main lesson has been that a small fee component is the most important part of any bag policy to influence consumer behavior to get customers to bring their own bags. Combining a ban on thin plastic bags with a fee on all other bags, like California’s statewide law, is a state-of-the art bag law structure. A similar law in place in San Jose California was responsible for reusable bag use at certain grocery stores going from 4% to 62%” said Romer.
“Plastic bags get swept in to streams and rivers and eventually the ocean where they are a major threat to marine life. Scientists estimate that soon, there will be 1 pound of plastic in the ocean for every 3 pounds of fish.  It is time for New York State to catch up with California and address this serious plastic pollution problem,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator.
Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, said: ” What does it say about us that we are unwilling to either bring our own reusable bag or pay ten cents for a paper bag when shopping? Does it indicate the level of sacrifice we as Americans are willing to make to save our environment? Countries far poorer than ours have given up plastic bags in the fight against waste and climate change. Is it really too much to ask of ourselves? Are plastic bags something we can do without or at least reduce in the struggle to protect the planet for our children? It’s not someone else’s decision. It’s ours. Do the right thing.”
Nigel Savage, the CEO of Hazon, the largest environmental organization in the Jewish community, said, ‘All faith traditions, including Judaism, have much to say about protecting and preserving the world. But the challenge – and the opportunity – for Governor Cuomo is now to turn pious words into legislative action. A statewide plastic bag ban would be useful in itself, and would also signal New York State’s commitment to effecting positive change.’
“I spend time everyday picking up plastic bags from waterways, roads, sidewalks, bushes, plants and trees.  We need to ban plastic bans now all over the place and create local industry by making reusable bags from locally grown fibers,  Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation Director.
“Having worked for years to get a plastic bag ban with paper bag fee passed in just one small town (Marbletown, NY) we know how hard it is to take local action because local leaders defer to the state, saying New York State should handle this. And it should! It’s time. Scientists say that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in our oceans. And single-use plastics are a major driver of the fracking boom,” Iris Marie Bloom, Director, Protecting Our Waters.
“About 12 million barrels of oil are required to make the 100 billion plastic bags used in the U.S. yearly, each of which is used on average 12 minutes before being sent on its way to a landfill, or eventually to the ocean,” says Maura Stephens, a cofounder of the grassroots Coalition to Protect New York. “That is pure insanity. We need to legislate our way out of this, and it’s past time to do so. This is an important and necessary law.”
Douglas Lee Adams of the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission, said, “An estimated 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste has been produced since the 1960s. About 9% of that total has been recycled and another 12% has been incinerated, according to news reports.  No one really knows. What we do know is too much plastic needlessly ends up on the world’s highways and byways, in our landfills and in our seas. We all are at fault. So a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in New York State, plus fee on paper bags, would be a great step towards reducing our contribution to plastic pollution.”

Bill Barr, Organizer, CAPP-NY, said “The Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines of New York strongly supports this ban, not only because disposable plastics pollute and destroy the environment, but because their production directly relates to exacerbation of climate change.  The fossil fuel industry sees the continued use of disposable plastics as a driver for augmenting fossil fuel production and infrastructure, and New York must do its share to thwart it.”