May 14, 2018
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We, the undersigned, strongly support New York State enacting a comprehensive policy to curb the use of single-use bags this legislative session.
As you are aware, our organizations have worked with municipalities throughout New York to successfully enact policies that reduce disposable bag use and encourage consumers to switch to reusable alternatives. We applaud your commitment to address plastic bag pollution on a state-wide level and we want to work with your office to enact an effective, comprehensive program this year.
In February of 2017, you met with several environmental groups to discuss the state preempting New York City’s carryout bag reduction law. We discussed the importance of reducing plastic pollution that ultimately should be accomplished on a state-wide level. We were heartened to hear you assert your commitment to take a leadership role over this issue.
However, we cannot support your legislation as it is currently written. Given our experience with Bring Your Own Bag (BYOBag) policies, a plastic bag ban only will have unintended adverse consequences and therefore, needs to be accompanied by a fee on other disposable bags. Additionally, we urge that any new law retain effective local laws unless the new law is equal to or stronger than existing local laws.
Taking into account lessons learned from residents, businesses and municipalities around the state and country who have enacted Bring Your Own Bag policies, we are writing to urge you to advance a policy that bans single-use plastic bags and places a fee on all other bags (both paper and reusable bags).
An effective state policy should be modeled after municipalities that have successfully addressed this issue. A ban/fee hybrid is the most successful model of BYOBag policy in the United States:
• Los Angeles County achieved a 94 percent reduction in single-use bags, including a 30 percent reduction in paper bag use, after implementing a ban on single-use plastic bags with a 10-cent fee on other bags, including paper.
• San Jose has similar legislation to Los Angeles and documented an 89 percent decrease of bags in storm drains, 60 percent fewer in creeks, and 59 percent fewer in streets.
• Based on these successful policies, the Town of New Castle became the first municipality in New York to enact a ban/fee hybrid, with a ban on single-use plastic bags and a 10-cent fee on paper which went into effect in January of 2017.
In contrast to these successful ordinances, Chicago simply banned plastic bags and did not place a fee on paper. As a consequence of this incomplete policy, many stores switched to slightly thicker plastic bags and labeled them as “reusable” resulting in an increase of waste and undermining efforts to curb single-use bag consumption. In 2016, Chicago chose to switch from a ban to a 7-cent fee on disposable bags.
• In New York, the City of Long Beach and Suffolk County placed a fee on all bags instead of implementing a plastic bag ban and both are experiencing a dramatic reduction in disposable bag use.
Meanwhile, municipalities in Westchester and Long Island chose to ban plastic bags with no fee component on other disposable bags and these communities have failed to see lasting consumer behavior change.
It is critical that New York moves forward with a policy that addresses both plastic and other disposable bags using the most successful policies as models. We urge you to ban single-use plastic bags and place a fee on paper and reusable bags and we recommend that a portion of the fee collected is dedicated to state parks, environmental improvement projects and reducing potential impacts to low/moderate income communities.
Among the 106 organizations to sign the letter were:
Church Women United in New York State
Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipelines
Creations Transformative Energy Task Force, Sisters of Charity of New York
Croton Climate Initiative
Dominican Sisters of Hope
Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement
Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater
Metro NY Catholic Climate Movement
New York League of Conservation Voters
NY Buddhist Climate Action Network
Orange Residents Against Pilgrim Pipelines
Protect Orange County
Rockland Sierra Club
SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force
The Nature Conservancy in New York