The New York Times recently reported that the New York City Council voted to approve the charge of 5 cents for plastic and paper shopping bags in the city. However, the bill now faces a potential veto in the State Capitol. The fee is scheduled to apply starting in February of next year.
The intent of the bag bill is to promote environmentally friendly habits among city shoppers and reduce the amount of bags in landfills. Instead of using the paper and plastic bags at the grocery store, supporters of the bag bill hope that people will bring their own reusable bags for shopping trips. Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco have adopted similar taxes on plastic bags. Opponents of the bag bill argue that the tax is an unfair burden on the poorer citizens who will not have ready access to reusable bags. In addition, the plastic bag industry has lobbied heavily against the bill, saying that the tax is arbitrary and unjust.
Before the bag bill takes effect in February, legislators hope that the State Capitol and New York City Council can work together in finding a reasonable way to implement these measures. Even though the City Council is a consistently progressive body, the debate over the plastic bag tax was surprisingly heated. While there are a range of exemptions included in the bag bill for produce, street vendors and restaurants, opponents at the state level still contend that the fee is actually a tax that is entirely unfair.