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Heastie: Approved budget includes critical measure to reduce plastic pollution

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Mon, Apr 1st 2019 02:10 pm

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Englebright on Monday announced the state fiscal year 2019-20 budget will protect New York’s waterways and the environment by banning plastic carryout bags.

“The Assembly majority knows that New York must lead the way in reducing plastic pollution,” Heastie said. “The convenience of plastic bags is simply not worth the environmental impact. By reducing our state’s usage, we will see less litter in our communities and less plastic pollution in our waterways.”

“This critical measure in our state budget is a necessary step to reducing the billions of plastic bags New Yorkers use every year,” Englebright said. “It is time we take a stand to protect our waterways and environment from plastic pollution, and ensure they are preserved for generations to come. My thanks to Speaker Heastie for helping to advance these measures.”

Exceptions to the plastic bag ban include:

  • Bags used solely to contain or wrap uncooked meat, bulk items, food sliced to order;
  • Newspaper bags;
  • Bags sold in bulk, including food storage bags and trash bags;
  • Garment bags;
  • Plastic bags provided by a restaurant; and
  • Bags provided by a pharmacy to carry prescription drugs.

Counties and cities will be authorized to impose a 5-cent fee on paper carryout bags by local law. If they choose to opt-in to the program, 40 percent of the revenue collected from the fee will be distributed to the county or city for the purchase and distribution of reusable bags, with priority given to low- and fixed-income communities. The remaining 60 percent of the revenue will go to the Environmental Protection Fund.

Purchases made using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food and nutrition service will be exempt from any paper carryout bag fee.

Patrick McClellan, state policy director for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “We thank Speaker Heastie, Environmental Conservation Chair Englebright, and all of the environmental champions in the State Assembly for their leadership in producing a budget full of green policies and investments. In particular, we are grateful that action has been taken to ban plastic bags and allow local fees on paper bags after years of discussion. We are also thrilled that New York City will become the first city in North America to institute congestion pricing to improve mass transit for the entire metro region, reduce air pollution, and take a big step in the right direction to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals. This win for the environment would not be possible without the Assembly's leadership.”

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