The Suffolk County Legislature passed legislation last Wednesday that aims to significantly reduce single use plastic and paper bag use throughout the county. The BYOBag bill mandates retailers charge a minimum fee of $0.5 cents on all plastic and paper bags at check out counters in order to discourage single use bag use. Similar fee structures have been used to reduce plastic bag litter in communities in California, Washington D.C. and overseas in England and Ireland.
In addition to the fee, a companion education bill, which also passed on Wednesday, will ensure that residents and businesses are prepared to switch to reusable bags when the fee goes into effect on January 1, 2018. It will create a task force to evaluate the effectiveness of the fee in reducing single use bag use.
“We are thrilled that Suffolk County has joined the global movement away from unnecessary, disposable bags with the passage of their reusable bag incentive bill today,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a statement issued late last week. “Single use bags were never free; Consumers pay for these bags in the price of our groceries and municipalities are saddled with the cost of cleaning up and landfilling plastic bags. There is a real environmental cost as well. Plastic bags litter communities, kill wildlife, and pollute our oceans. Plastic bags are a mistake of the past, reusable bags are the solution for our future.”