City Councilmember Brad Lander’s Statement on Governor Cuomo’s Appointment of the Statewide Plastic Bag Task Force

City Councilmember Brad Lander’s Statement on Governor Cuomo’s Appointment of the Statewide Plastic Bag Task Force

 

Since February 15th – when the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo nullified NYC’s “Bring Your Own Bag” law – residents of NYC have sent approximately 750 million plastic bags to landfills.  By the end of the year, it will be another 7 billion.

New York needs a statewide ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ policy to reduce plastic bag waste. So I sincerely hope that the New York State Plastic Bag Task Force will get us there – but the proof will be in the results.

California has pointed the way for New York State. In recent years, municipalities throughout California experimented with a range of policies, including bag fees and bans. In November, California voters adopted a statewide policy by referendum: a ban on plastic bags, with a 10-cent fee on paper bags.  With this policy, California is seeing dramatic reductions in carryout bag waste.

I welcome the appointments of NYS Assembly Member Steve Englebright, Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee (and one of the few Assembly Members who voted “No” on the bill to nullify NYC’s #BYOBag law) and Marcia Bystryn of the New York League of Conservation Voters, one of the champions of NYC’s law.

However, it is disappointing that there is not a single representative of a city or town on the task force. When Governor Cuomo signed state legislation pre-empting NYC’s BYOBag law last month, he announced in his statement that the task force would include “local governments.” The NYS Association of Counties does not represent the New York City Council, whose law was pre-empted, nor the Long Beach City Council, who have also adopted a bag fee law. It is another sign of Albany’s disregard for local governments.

There is one near-term bright spot: On Earth Day, April 22, 2017, a 5-cent fee on carryout plastic and paper bags will go into effect in Long Beach, in Nassau County. I cannot explain why the State Legislature and the Governor pre-empted our bill, while leaving the Long Beach bill in place -- but I am glad we will have the nearby example of this common-sense policy. I am confident that once their BYOBag law goes into effect, the vast majority of Long Beach residents will start bringing reusable bags, just as they have in hundreds of cities around the country.

Hopefully, the task force will recommend an effective “Bring Your Own Bag” policy, the State Assembly and the State Senate will pass it, and the Governor will sign it before the end of the year. If they do, I will be the first to praise it. But I confess, it is hard not to be somewhat skeptical when the task force fails to include a single representative of the twelve cities and towns across NY state that have passed bag legislation at the local level. If the task force fails, we will work to pass our law in the New York City Council again next year, nearly 8 billion bags later.

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