NYC grocery bag fees may become a reality for residents of the Big Apple if proposed legislation is passed by the New York City Council to introduce a mandatory charge 10 cents per bag.
The purpose of the legislation is to curb the number of grocery bags which make their way into landfills, and cost the city an amazing $10 million a year.
Deputy Sanitation Commissioner Ron Gonen spoke to reporters and explained a little more about the NYC grocery bag fees: "My understanding is the legislation is not focused on banning plastic bags. It's focused on charging a fee to encourage people to use less," he said.
According to the legislation, the fee would apply to markets, street vendors selling fruit, and many retail stores. Restaurants. and bags for medication or liquor. would be exempt from the fees.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has not yet signed off on the council bill, although he is clearly concerned with the number of bags on the streets of New York: "Plastic bags are a problem," de Blasio said. "Our goal has to be to reduce the use of plastic bags. There are a lot of different ways to do that."
A supporter of the new fees for bags, Fernando Mateo, the spokesman for the Bodega Association of the United States, said: "NYC needs to do more in terms of educating the public through public service announcements. The best way to deter the use of harmful products to the environment is to teach the uneducated consumer."
City Councilman Brad Lander, a co-sponsor of the bill, explained in more detail the thinking behind deterring consumers from using too many disposable shopping bags: "If you ban or put a charge on plastic but don't charge for paper, a couple of things happen: people all switch to paper and we don't get the waste reductions and that actually is bad for the retailers as well."
He added that: "Paper bags cost them more to buy than plastic bags, so if they start giving more of those away for free, they would actually wind up worse off."
Since 2008, plastic bags in New York have accounted for over 1,700 tons of garbage collected, so perhaps the new NYC grocery bag fees are a good move for a city which needs urgently to deal with the way its residents dispose of their refuse.