On Monday, the day after Earth Day, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill that, if passed into law, would ban the use of plastic bags.
The three-page bill would outlaw single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and other retailers by next year, but includes exceptions for items like produce bags, take-out bags, and bags sold for garbage or food storage.
"The blight of plastic bags takes a devastating toll on our streets, our water, and our natural resources, and we need to take action to protect our environment," Cuomo said in a statement.
Banning single-use plastic bags was one of the legislative options posed by a New York State Plastic Bag Task Force in its final report issued in January. Cuomo created the temporary task force in March 2017 to study how state government might be able to reduce the pollution caused by the 23 million plastic bags used by New Yorkers every year.
The proposal comes amid rising calls for the governor to strengthen his environmental policies. On the same day Cuomo proposed his plastic bag ban, 19 busses carrying 1,500 activists from across the state converged on the state capital to demand that Cuomo do more to combat climate change, according to the Huffington Post.
Cuomo’s climate credentials to date include a 2014 moratorium on fracking, as well as a commitment to cut New York state’s greenhouse gas emissions 40% within the next 12 years and 80% by 2050. However, he has no plans to transition the state to using 100% renewable energy and he hasn’t sought to introduce any penalties or taxes on pollution or emissions, as other progressive governors have proposed. The governor also hasn’t made moves to divest New York state’s pension funds from the fossil fuel industry, a move his political rival, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, vowed to make this January for city workers.
Last Friday, Cuomo’s primary challenger in this year’s election, Cynthia Nixon, unveiled her climate policy platform, which includes a commitment to shifting to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The plastic bag bill faces an uncertain path in the state legislature. Last year, leaders in both houses opposed a New York City law placing a tax on plastic bags, according to the New York Times. Cuomo himself ultimately shot that law down.
If Cuomo’s bag bill is passed, New York would join California, which issued a statewide ban in 2016, and Hawai’i, where every county has independently issued a ban on plastic bags, the Times reports.
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