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Politics and Government

New York to begin enforcing plastic bag ban Oct. 19


New York state will begin enforcing its ban on single-use carry-out plastic bags next month after a brief hiatus of the law due to a legal challenge brought earlier this year, when those bags were temporarily allowed to be used by stores without any repercussions.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said Friday that, because it won that legal challenge in August, the agency will begin enforcing the law on October 19.

“The Court’s decision is a victory and a vindication of New York State’s efforts to end the scourge of single-use plastic bags and a direct rebuke to the plastic bag manufacturers who tried to stop the law and DEC’s regulations to implement it,” Seggos said.

The lawsuit was brought by Poly-Pak Industries earlier this year to overturn the state’s law banning the use of plastic bags. The company, based on Long Island, lost the suit in Albany County Supreme Court and did not appeal the ruling.

The law largely bans the use of single-use plastic bags, but allows cities and counties to authorize the use of paper carry-out bags. There’s an incentive to that; those municipalities would collect 2 cents of the 5-cent charge for each paper bag.

The remaining 3-cent charge would be diverted to New York’s Environmental Protection Fund, a pot of money that’s used by the state for preservation and conservation projects.

It’s not guaranteed that stores will offer paper bags as an alternative; that has to be allowed by the city or county. Consumers that don’t have access to a paper bag will be required to purchase reusable bags if they don’t have their own.

Environmental advocates cheered the announcement Friday, particularly because the ban was supposed to take effect on March 1.

"New Yorker's use a staggering 23 billion plastic bags each year, many of these bags litter our neighborhoods, parks, rivers and ultimately are swept into the ocean,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and president of Beyond Plastics. “The law was supposed to take effect on March 1. It is good that it will finally be enforced.”